Sleep science makes a night owl of Gabrielle - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Sleep science makes a night owl of Gabrielle

3 May 2018

Gabrielle Schaffer never studied past 10pm, but she now has a job that keeps her up all night.

The 21-year-old USC Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences graduate from Buderim works in the Sleep and Respiratory Unit at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, helping people overcome problems with their slumber.

“We basically watch people sleep, so I have to work the night shift sometimes,” Gabrielle said.

“On those nights, I have my coffee at 7pm and maybe another at 1.30am. The patients have all sorts of electrodes taking information that is fed to the screens that we monitor. It’s very interesting.”

On the day shifts, she often performs respiratory function tests and helps treat patients with respiratory conditions that are affecting their quality of sleep, which can often be corrected with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or other treatments.

Gabrielle graduated from USC with a near-perfect GPA of 6.95, earning her a University Medal for academic excellence.

“When I was studying I didn’t want to jeopardise my sleep, which I knew was important, so I never studied after 10pm,” she said.

But she didn’t expect her final-year work placement, the first placement at the new hospital unit, would turn her body clock on its head.

“I live at home but I don’t see my family much. On Saturday and Sunday I work at a pharmacy, so I don’t get to see them much on the weekends either,” she said.

“But I wouldn’t change it. I want a full-time career in the sleep and respiratory field.”

“Sleep is so poorly understood and there is still so much that we don’t know. We know the stages of sleep and that no sleep is not compatible with life, it is vital like air, but there’s so much more to learn.”

Applications are now open for mid-year entry to study at USC, with Semester 2 starting July 23. Details on how to apply programs can be found at

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