‘Healthy sleep is a necessity, not an option’ that is Dr. Heidi Lammers-Van der Holst’s motto. In this bio, sleep scientist Heidi Lammers-Van der Holst introduces herself.
The relationship between sleep, the biological clock, and working at night form the main theme in Hiedi Lammers-Van der Holst’s international scientific career. A topic that is more relevant now than ever. As night shift workers are more likely to contract COVID-19, whereas we also really need these people to help combat the pandemic. With her applied research and consultancy work, Heidi also contributes to optimal sleep habits and the health of this important group. Below, you can read about what she has done and is currently doing to achieve this.
Erasmus Medical Centre: BioClock-Ocean Race, sleep deficiency, working at night, and COVID-19 (vaccination response)
‘I have been working as a senior researcher at the Erasmus Medical Centre since March 2021.
Within the BioClock Consortium , I’m working together with RIVM and TNO on determining the best way to objectively measure the effects of a disruption of the biological clock on a person’s health in the long term. We are researching which biomarkers, which we can determine on the cell level, are the most suitable for this. Biomarkers give us much stronger information than, for example, questionnaires that people fill in themselves. It is our aim to develop personalised interventions with this so that night shift workers can work healthier. We are also conducting this applied research among a very special group of shift workers: the ocean sailors of the Ocean Race 2022-2023. They are pre-eminently suitable as a research group because they have to follow a 4-hour sleep – 4-hour wake rhythm for nine months under extreme conditions and, in addition, they have to continue to deliver a top performance. After all, they want to win!
I am also the head researcher of a study into the question whether COVID-19 vaccinations are less effective for people who sleep too little and work in a night shift. Research has not yet been carried out in this area; therefore it is an innovative project. The first results are expected no later than end of March 2022.’
Harvard: interventions for night shift workers
‘My appointment in the United States was a remarkable experience, both professionally and for my family. I worked as a post-doctoral research fellow in Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)/ Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston (US) between 2018 and 2021. It was a unique place to work, where I learned a lot. Besides my present work at the Erasmus Medical Centre, I am still connected to Harvard. I work together remotely with Professor Charles Czeisler and Professor Jeanne Duffy on, for example, new sleep strategies for older healthcare workers, a vulnerable target group who experience more problems working irregular hours.’
Consultant: working healthier at night
‘What really makes me extremely happy is applying the results of my scientific research in actual practice. I do that in my independent consultancy work with which I can help night shift workers directly to work healthier. During my in-company training for nurses, trainee-doctors, medical specialists, police officers, security workers, and industrial night shift workers, I see how they suddenly start connecting the dots. That is so inspiring! I teach them all about the relationship between working at night, sleep, and their biological clock and help them to apply this knowledge in lifestyle strategies. For more information, see .
Driver: more attention for healthy sleep
‘How we behave is determined for an important part by the relationship between sleep and our biological clock. I am an avid ambassador to share knowledge about this and to place this on the agenda, among, for example, healthcare professionals and certainly also among younger generations at schools and in vocational colleges. I consider it positive that sleep is increasingly being stressed as part of a healthy lifestyle – but a lot more attention needs to be paid to sleep. Therefore, my motto is: healthy sleep is a necessity, not an option. Give priority to sleep, it is the best way to feel healthy and fit!’
Heidi Lammers-Van der Holst (1977) is married and has three children. She lives in Noordwijk and enjoys singing, spending time with her family and friends, travelling and walking in nature.
More information? See Linkedin