Sleep Medicine Research in the Department of Neurology

Sleep medicine interacts with virtually every subspecialty of neurology, including epilepsy, stroke, neuromuscular diseases, and disorders of neurodevelopment. The study and treatment of sleep disorders represents an opportunity to improve daytime functioning and quality of life in individuals affected by neurological disorders. Thus, research in the Sleep Disorders Division takes a highly interdisciplinary approach.

The Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center is comprised of two hotel-based, accredited, state-of-the-art sleep labs (Nashville and Franklin locations). Both facilities have the capacity to conduct overnight studies, allowing for comprehensive care for patients and opening possibilities for breakthrough discoveries in sleep medicine.

Faculty members in the Sleep Disorders Division are leading research in the following areas:  

Restless Legs Syndrome
Dr. Art Walters

Our current studies include (a) examining the blood samples of people with RLS to see if RLS is an inflammatory or auto-immune disorder; (b) evaluating an investigational product for the treatment of RLS in adolescents (13-17 years old) with RLS; (c) studying the differences in complaints and symptoms in Growing Pains and RLS in children (6-12 years old); (d) comparing the amount of hyperactivity in adult patients with Idiopathic Hypersomnia or Narcolepsy compared to control; and (e) examining the connection between Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and sleep disorders. 

Patients or physicians interested in participating in any of our studies should contact Emily Thompson at or (615) 875-2456.

Interdisciplinary Sleep Research
Dr. Kanika Bagai

Current areas of research include studying the underlying mechanisms of obstructive sleep apnea and Restless Legs Syndrome. In addition, other projects include studying the overlap of sleep and neurological disorders. Ongoing collaborative studies include the Neurobehavioral Response to C/BiPAP Treatment in Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and the study of effect of light therapy on sleep in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Sleep and Neurodevelopment
Dr. Beth Malow and colleagues

Sleep disturbances are common in children with disorders of neurodevelopment and can affect child and family functioning. Our current studies focus on sleep and autism, as well as other conditions of neurodevelopment such as Down syndrome. We are researching insomnia as well as obstructive sleep apnea, including adherence to continuous positive airway pressure. We are also piloting an innovative training program for providers who care for adults with autism.

Learn more about Dr. Malow’s research studies.