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Associations between disrupted sleep and hallucinations in psychosis (ref: RDF20/PSY/MOSELEY)

Project Description

Sleep problems are commonly reported by individuals with psychosis. There is evidence that disrupted sleep plays a causal role in the occurrence of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations (hearing voices in the absence of a speaker or seeing things others cannot) and paranoia, and this may have important implications for the development of novel interventions. However, little is known about why sleep problems are related to the development of psychotic symptoms. One possibility is that the cognitive biases associated with psychosis (e.g., failure to inhibit irrelevant memories; altered top-down processing; failure to monitor the correct source of information) may be exacerbated by disrupted sleep. It is also not clear whether disrupted sleep is related to specific forms of hallucination (e.g., in the auditory or visual modality), or whether sleep problems may increase the risk of hallucinations in all modalities.

Across a number of studies, the aim of this PhD will be to investigate, in both the general population and in psychosis patients, links between disrupted sleep, hallucinations, paranoia, and cognition. This will be accomplished through collaboration with Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research (e.g., assessing the effects of sleep deprivation on relevant aspects of cognition) and will form a key part of establishing a Psychosis Research Unit with current collaborators across the North East. This includes a team of local NHS clinical psychologists, who have recently secured large-scale funding to run three trials of psychological interventions for psychosis in the region, and who will facilitate recruitment of clinical participants as part of this PhD.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020
Start Date: 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU students with a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Alderson-Day, B., Smailes, D., Moffatt, J., Moseley, P., Fernyhough, C. (2019). Intentional inhibition but not source memory is related to hallucination-proneness and intrusive thoughts in a university sample. Cortex, 113, 267-278.

Freeman, D., Sheaves, B., Goodwin, G., Yu, L., Nickless, A., Harrison, P…Moseley, P. et al. (2017). The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(10), 749-758.

Garrison, J.*, Moseley, P.*, Alderson-Day, B., Smailes, D., Fernyhough, C., & Simons, J. (2017). Testing continuum models of psychosis: no reduction in source monitoring ability in healthy individuals prone to auditory hallucinations. Cortex, 91, 197-207.

Moseley, P., Smailes, D., Ellison, A., & Fernyhough, C. (2016). The effect of auditory verbal imagery on signal detection in hallucination-prone individuals. Cognition, 146, 206-216.

Palagini, L. Bastien, C. H., Marazziti, D., Ellis, J. G., & Riemann, D. (in press). The key role of insomnia and sleep loss in the dysregulation of multiple systems involved in mood disorders: A proposed model. Journal of Sleep Research, e12841.

Ji, X., Bastien, C. H., Ellis, J. G., Hale, L., & Grandner, M. A. (in press). Disassembling insomnia symptoms and their associations with depressive symptoms in a community sample: the differential role of sleep symptoms, daytime symptoms, and perception symptoms of insomnia. Sleep Health

Randall, C., Nowakowski, S., Ellis, J. (2018). Managing Acute Insomnia in Prison: Evaluation of a ‘one-shot’Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) intervention. Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Boulin, P., Ellwood, C., Ellis, J.G. (2016) Group versus individual therapy for acute insomnia: A pilot investigation of a ‘one-shot’ treatment strategy. Brain Sciences, 7, 1-9.

Fossion, R., Rivera, A.L., Toledo-Roy, J.C., Ellis, J.G., Angelova, M. (2017) Multiscale adaptive analysis of circadian rhythms and intradaily variability: Application to actigraphy time series in acute insomnia subjects. PLOS One. e0181762.

Ellis, J. G., Cushing, T. Germain, A. (2015) Treating Acute Insomnia: A Randomised Control Trial of a ‘Single-shot’ of Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia Sleep, 38 (6), 971–978.

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