Sleep for Success – Dr Dale Rae

What is your current area of interest/research?

Chronobiology: the study of sleep and circadian rhythms as they relate to both general health (esp obesity and cardiometabolic diseases) and sports performance

What is the most fascinating or complex realisation you have come to about this area so far?
Sleep is a “not negotiable” factor when it comes to performance and health – and yet it is the first part of our daily routine to be deprioritised or even abused when we feel that time is short

Top 3 facts we must know about this topic?

  1. Good quality sleep promotes physical and mental recovery
  2. Any given person’s sleep “sweet spot” is individual – in terms of timing, duration, sleep environment etc
  3. Sleep per se may not be the magic bullet, but rather it’s effects on almost every system in the body are key


If you hadn’t chosen your current carreer, what would you have done? (what was your alternative)
I was going to become a pilot!
Being in a position to translate our research through Sleep Science – a business unit at SSISA that I have developed together with some of my students that allows us to offer sleep services to the public
Career advice you would give to upcoming SEM profesionals/Bio/students?
Follow your passion, work hard (and smart), be flexible and always open to learning something new, and surround yourself with positive people.

Quick 5:

One thing we don’t know about you?
I am a secret twitcher
Favourite food?
Endurance or strength training?
Favourite quote?
Love the life you live, live the life you love – Bob Marley
What are you looking forward to most at SASMA?
The opportunity to connect with colleagues from all over the country

Dr Rae is a Senior Researcher at the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, and Director of Sleep Science at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. She obtained a PhD in Exercise Physiology from UCT in 2007, and has worked at UCT since 2008 lecturing undergraduate (BSc physiology) and postgraduate (Exercise Science, Biokinetics, Sport and Exercise Medicine and Sports Physiotherapy) students. Dr Rae’s research is in the field of Chronobiology, focusing on Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in sport and health (with a particular emphasis on non-communicable diseases (NCDs)). She collaborates with local and international scientists investigating topics ranging from sleep deprivation and recovery in athletes; the behavioural and genetic aspects of chronobiology in sports performance; blue light exposure and resynchronisation following jet lag; sleep and circadian rhythms as they relate to obesity and NCDs; the interaction between sleep and NCDs in shift workers; and understanding the sleep patterns and needs in rural and urban South Africans. Through Sleep Science, Dr Rae and her students are able to translate their research into best practice interventions designed to make a difference to the sleep of the general public.