Written by Anna Marr. Graphics by Eleanor Wales.
Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel: Women’s History Month Sleep Leaders Part 2
Meet Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel!
Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD, is an educator celebrated for progress in sleep education and academic research. Her expertise lies in sleep and circadian rhythms, particularly in aging, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer. A fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Gerontological Society of America, she’s a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Professor of Research at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
Dr. Ancoli-Israel’s research involves studying the longitudinal effect of sleep disorders on aging, therapeutic interventions for sleep problems in dementia, and the relationship between sleep, fatigue, and circadian rhythms in cancer. She was one of the first to apply light therapy to sleep treatment in Alzheimer’s and use light in fatigue treatment in cancer.
With 500+ works published in medical and psychiatric journals, recent publication topics, which grew out of her many collaborations, range from associations of circadian abnormalities in those at increased risk of Parkinson Disease to the effects of stress on cardiovascular biomarkers in family dementia caregivers. She’s also been a guest on NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” and “All Things Considered.”
As an educator, Dr. Ancoli-Israel continues to mentor the next generation and speak at events around the world. With her emeritus status, she also has the chance to reflect on future possibilities—in which she anticipates impactful new discoveries in circadian rhythms.
“… in the last few years we’ve learned that there are clocks all over the body,” she says. “So many different parts of our body are influenced by circadian rhythms.” (Sleep Review)
Dr. Ancoli-Israel encourages educators to investigate the genetics behind sleep, sleep disorders, and rhythms, which can lead to greater understanding of how our bodies work and to potential new treatments. She also promotes embracing sleep as an interdisciplinary field.
“We need to have pulmonologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, cardiologists, ENTs, dentists, pediatricians—we all need to work together because we each have something to bring to the understanding and treatment of sleep disorders.”
Dr. Ancoli-Israel is Past-President of the Sleep Research Society (SRS), Past-President of the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms, and was on the founding Executive Board of the National Sleep Foundation. She’s received the National Sleep Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, SRS Mary A. Carskadon Outstanding Educator Award, Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine Distinguished Career Award, SRS Distinguished Scientist Award and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine William C. Dement Academic Achievement Award.
“For me, the world rotates around sleep,” she says. “Cardiologists would say the world rotates around the heart, but I believe sleep touches everything.”