Lauren is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. In her lab, she studies what affects our sleep, and how that in turn affects our waking behaviour.
What makes a night of sleep "good"? Staying asleep the whole night? Falling asleep once your head hits the pillow? Waking up refreshed and ready for your day? How does "good" sleep at night prepare you for a day filled with social interaction, cognitive challenges and emotional tests?
These are the questions that Dr Lauren N. Whitehurst explores in her sleep lab every day! She asks questions about what happens in the brain while we sleep and the effect of sleep on our waking behaviors. She focuses on how we can define "good" sleep based on physiological data and how sleep supports cognition and learning. She also examines how our daily experiences may impact sleep. Specifically, she explores how stress may deter good sleep and how sleep-stress interactions impact cognitive function. Dr Whitehurst is particularly interested in the role that the lack of access to restorative sleep can play in the accelerated aging of communities historically underserved by science and medicine in the US.
Dr Whitehurst received her BS in Psychology and an MA in Experimental Psychology from James Madison University, and her PhD in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. She also completed a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Health and Community and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky.
We think of sleep as a period of relaxation and recuperation, but while we snooze, our brains remain incredibly busy, often with intriguing "side effects" like dreams and sleepwalking. What does the mind get up to when we're not paying attention?