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The Impact of Sleep Disturbance on the relationship between Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) and Mental Health (Ref FHMS - FF - 27 PSY)

   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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  Dr Judith Gentle  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully funded (fees + stipend) PhD in Psychology at the University of Surrey to begin in September 2023. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Judith Gentle, Dr Lewis Jayes and Dr Victoria Revell on research that aims to investigate sleep patterns in adults with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD / dyspraxia) and the mediational role sleep plays in the relationship between DCD and mental health. The successful candidate will join the Motor Development and Impact Lab (MODI) and collaborate with stakeholders at the Dyspraxia Foundation.

Movement skills are essential for many activities of daily living. However, individuals with impaired motor skills, such as those with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) can experience secondary consequences with higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to the general population. Sleep disturbance in the general population has been linked to poorer mental health outcomes, and although sleep disturbance has been identified in children with DCD, research has yet to be carried out on adults. As a result, the relationship between sleep and mental health in this population has yet to be explored. This project will examine the sleep patterns of adults with DCD and explore the relationship between sleep and mental health in this population. Findings from this research will help inform support for adults with DCD experiencing sleep and/or mental health issues.

The aims of this PhD are: 

  1. To investigate sleep patterns in adults with and without DCD.
  2. To examine the proposed relationship between DCD and mental health, focussing on the mediational role played by sleep.

The successful candidate will use a range of research methods (with appropriate training) including thematic analysis, online surveys, delivering standardised assessments, use of actigraphy, sensor mats and EEG. They will communicate with participants and stakeholders, as well as the academic community via conference presentations and publications.


Barnett, A. L., & Wiggs, L. (2012). Sleep behaviour in children with developmental co-ordination disorder: Sleep behaviour in DCD. Child: Care, Health & Development, 38(3), 403–411. 

Gillin, J. C. (1998). Are sleep disturbances risk factors for anxiety, depressive and addictive disorders?. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 98(393), 39–43.  

Omer, S., Jijon, A. M., & Leonard, H. (2019). Internalising symptoms in developmental coordination disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 

Principal Supervisor - Dr Judith Gentle 

Dr Judith Gentle is an expert in Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) with a well-established collaborative link with project partner The Dyspraxia Foundation. She has supervised one PhD to completion and has an emerging research profile with a strong presence on the national/international conference scene for DCD. She is director of the Motor Development and Impact (MoDI) Lab at the University of Surrey where researchers meet to discuss motor development and its impact across the lifespan. 

[Email Address Removed]

Entry requirements

Open to UK and international students with the project starting in October 2023. Note that a maximum of 30% of the studentships will be offered to international students.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme

How to apply

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant principal supervisor(s) to discuss the project(s) before submitting their application.

Applications should be submitted via the programme page (N.B. Please select the October 2023 start date when applying).

You may opt to apply for a single project or for 2 of these Faculty-funded studentship projects

When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a brief motivational document (1 page maximum) which specifies:

  • the reference numbers(s) for the project or two projects you are applying for 
  • the project title(s) and principal supervisor name(s) 
  • if applying for two projects, please also indicate your order of preference for the projects
  • an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD 
  • an explanation of your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen

Additionally, to complete a full application, you MUST also email a copy of your CV and 1-page motivational document directly to the relevant project principal supervisor of each project you apply for. Due to short turnaround times for applicant shortlisting, failure to do this may mean that your application is not considered.

Please note that online interviews for shortlisted applicants are expected to take place during the week commencing 30th January.

Funding Notes

Funding is for 3.5 years and includes UKRI-aligned stipend (£17,668 pa for 2022-23), approved University of Surrey fees and a research budget. This studentship is funded by Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey.
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