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1996 …2024

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Personal profile

Research Biography

Professor Robert Adams, MBBS, MD, FRACP, FRCP, FAASM is a specialist respiratory and sleep physician who is Professor of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine and Medical Director at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at Flinders University. He is a Senior Consultant Physician in the Respiratory Sleep and Ventilation Services and Director of Respiratory Clinical Trials Unit at Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, based at Flinders Medical Centre. He completed post-doctoral training at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School was previously Professor in Medicine at The University of Adelaide. His multidisciplinary, translational research examines the impact of chronic conditions, particularly sleep apnea and insomnia, on health and effects of health services interventions. A current focus is examining the impact of novel technology for diagnosis and monitoring of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia and understanding how this can help with better matching the right treatment to the right patients. 

With colleagues at AISH he is examining the effects of shiftwork on health and the impact of sleep and circadian disruption on health and daytime functioning. Other work examines how simple dietary changes can improve sleep health.

He leads the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence National Centre for Sleep Health Services Research, which is trialling new models of care aiming to develop the ability of the primary care healthcare system to manage sleep disorders and improve sleep health. 

Prof Adams has extensive experience with large population based cohort studies. He is Principal Investigator of the MAILES Sleep Cohort Study, one of the largest community studies of sleep health worldwide. This research program has contributed to guidelines and position statements particularly related to sleep apnea.

He is Principal Investigator of The North West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS) a longitudinal cohort study of 4060 adults with 20 years follow-up. Over 300 publications have contributed to the Global Burden of Disease studies and the NCD-Risk Factor collaboration, with publications used as the basis for numerous policy and guidelines.

Prof Adams is the Deputy Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation (SHF), a non-profit organisation that is the leading advocacy group for sleep health in Australia ( He serves on the SHF Consumer Reference Council, the Indigenous Sleep Health Working Party and Healthy Sleep in Hospitals Working Group. The late have developed a Toolkit designed for hospital staff and management who are interested in improving the sleep quality of their patients. 

Research Interests

Research opportunities for all these projects exist at all levels from undergraduate student projects to PhD and Post-doctoral level for enthusiastic candidates. 

1. Sleep Health

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is very common, with up to half of adults having some form of the condition. OSA has a large negative effect on a number of areas of health - ie heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, mental health, accidents and quality of life.

At the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health current research projects aim to better identify who is at risk of adverse health outcomes out of the large pool of people in the community who have some form of sleep apnea.  This works includes seeing if new markers of OSA on sleep studies  can be used to improve the precision for identifying those at risk of adverse consequences. We have a particular interest in gender differences in OSA and the impact of OSA on women's health.

Clinical studies aim to examine the use of novel technology for diagnosis and monitoring of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.  The overall purpose is understanding how more precise diagnosis of the treatable traits of OSA and insomnia can lead to better matching the right treatment to the right patients. 

Work in nutritional epidemiology and sleep investigates the effect of dietary patterns on sleep apnea and sleep health. Interventions examine the efect of simple diet changes on sleep.  

Sleep, biological rhythms and health outcomes is a focus of research. We use both big datasets and conduct clinical studies to examine the effect of the timing and quality of sleep, eating, physical activity and work on physical and mental health. An emerging area of research is examining the effects of commencing shiftwork in young workers and exploring interventions to improve the health of young shiftworkers.

Increasing evidence links chronic insomnia and sleep disruption to mental health problems. We are trialling interventions to improve sleep and mental health in men presenting to primary care and new digital interventions to deliver insomnia treatment in general practice.  

2. Population Health

Prof Adams leads a number of large scale representative population studies on health surveillance of chronic disease and related factors. The ultimate focus  is to contribute to positive ageing by improving population health across the life span. The work involves the tracking of population health to identify gaps/targets that can be better addressed through prevention strategies and/or better management of chronic conditions and conditions associated with ageing.

Examples of ongoing cohort studies include:

i) the North-West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS), which has followed over 4000 adults since 2000 for a broad range of biopsychosocial and environmental variables, and resulted in over 150 publications so far (see )

ii) the Men, Androgens, Inflammation, Lifestyle, Environment Study (MAILES), which aims to examine non-traditional risk factors associated with the development of cardio-metabolic disease in men, and is following n=1629 men aged 40 years and over (see )

3. Health Services

The National Centre for Sleep Health Services ia an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence that is designing and modelling new strategies for sleep disorders management in primary care, and is testing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these new strategies in primary care with a view to wider community deployment. 

Education/Academic qualification

Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery, Adelaide Medical School, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia

Doctor of Medicine, Thesis title: Health-related Quality of Life and Psychosocial aspects of Asthma., Adelaide Medical School, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia

Fellow, American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Fellow, Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Fellow, Royal College of Physicians

External positions

Deputy Chair, Sleep Health Foundation

Consultant Physician, Respiratory Sleep and Ventilation Services, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network

Adjunct Professor, Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide


  • Registered

Research Areas

  • Clinical
  • Digital health
  • Clinical psychology

Supervisory Interests

  • Sleep and chronic disease epidemiology
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep education in primary care
  • Sleep psychology
  • Shift work
  • Health services research


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