Professor Receives Award for Sleep Research

Dr. Kenneth Lichstein (left) and Dr. Sid Nau (right) review the electronic record of a patient's polysomnography.
Dr. Kenneth Lichstein (left) and Dr. Sid Nau (right) review the electronic record of a patient’s polysomnography.

From the June 2017 Desktop News | Dr. Kenny Lichstein, a professor of in the Department of Psychology, is retiring in January after 41 years of practicing and teaching psychology, and to cap off his career, he’s been awarded the Peter Hauri Career Distinguished Achievement Award by the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, or SBSM.

The Peter Hauri Career Distinguished Achievement Award is awarded annually by the SBSM, which consists of approximately 350 sleep psychologists from around the world who evaluate and treat sleep disorders by addressing factors that interfere with sleep.

Lichstein said he began his career working in relaxation techniques for people suffering from a variety of afflictions including headaches, hypertension, hemophilia, stress, and insomnia. After about 10 years, he decided to specialize in, and study people dealing with, insomnia.

Recently his studies have focused on people who are addicted to sleep medications and have current insomnia. He looked at how their addiction could be remedied while still allowing them to get restful sleep.

“Basically, these people are taking sleep medicine and not getting the benefits,” Lichstein said. “We teach them cognitive behavioral skills to manage their sleep and slowly wean them from their medication. We’ve had good success with this approach and are proving that people who have been on medication and have insomnia can get off this medication if they do it slowly.”

The key to success with this approach is persistence, which Lichstein said has also been the key to his successful career.

“I’ve published 6 books and about 180 articles and book chapters mostly on behavioral sleep medicine,” Lichstein said. “If you keep doing something for a long time, there is an accumulation effect.”

This month, Lichstein will attend an international conference in Boston, to receive his award. Over 6,000 sleep researchers and clinicians will be in attendance, including 15 of Lichstein’s past and present students.

“It’s a very sweet award,” Lichstein said. “I’m very honored and very pleased. To get a bit of recognition from your peers is great.”