FEATURED MEMBER - MELISSA MILANAK, PhD

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE FIELD IN 10 YEARS?

I am excited to see sleep begin to get the recognition it deserves. Attention is slowly shifting where more and more medical providers, mental health professionals, and even corporate executives are recognizing sleep in its own right instead of just as a secondary symptom and the importance of sleep on health, well-being, quality of life, productivity, etc. Sleep has become a valuable “foot in the door” target for treatment for many individuals who are uncomfortable seeking help for mental health disorders but will seek help for sleep problems, and it will be exciting to see how this focus on sleep continues to grow support for the field highlighting its importance. Additionally, I hope to see more recognition and usage of CBTi as the recommended treatment for insomnia.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO SPECIALIZE IN BEHAVIORAL SLEEP MEDICINE (WHAT GOT YOU STARTED, WHO DID YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH ALONG THE WAY)?

My path to sleep had a bit of a delayed onset. Throughout graduate school I specialized in PTSD/trauma. Through my research examining the nature of, etiology and treatment of PTSD, sleep disturbances continued to arise, and I became more and more interested in the reciprocal nature of sleep disturbances and PTSD. During my pre-doctoral clinical internship and 2-year NIMH post-doctoral fellowship, I specifically focused on the relationship between sleep and trauma, and the rest is history! I had voluntary mentors early in my sleep career such as Anne Germain at UPMC who served as a secondary mentor for my post-doc, sleep experts who took me under their wing such as Daniel Taylor who saw me “lurking” at an ABCT SIG event and immediately started asking me questions and connecting me with other BSM folks, and colleagues such as Allison Wilkerson who said “have you ever heard of SBSM?” and brought me along to my first SBSM awards reception at SLEEP. I was able to build
collaborations, continue to grow my research and clinical practice at MUSC including helping to build and coordinate the Sleep & Anxiety Treatment & Research Program (SATRP), and now I am collaborating with colleagues internationally in Northern Ireland and South Africa.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO EARLY CAREER INDIVIDUAL, OR THOSE RE-SPECIALIZING INTO BEHAVIORAL SLEEP MEDICINE?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Come to events even if you do not know anyone and talk to people. Do not be afraid or concerned if you do not know much about sleep – behavioral sleep medicine folks love to share, will not judge and get excited when others want to join the field.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP THAT YOU PLAN ON TAKING EITHER IN YOUR RESEARCH PROGRAM OR CLINICAL PRACTICE?

For the last 2.5 years, I have implemented a CBTi and anxiety group treatment that I adapted for individuals participating in an intensive outpatient addictions recovery treatment program. I plan to examine that data to see the effects of sleep and anxiety interventions in this population. Additionally, I have recently begun research in South Africa implementing an adapted version of the Trans-C-Youth sleep treatment protocol with adolescent girls with trauma histories/PTSD. I will be continuing with this feasibility study and preparing the grant application for international funding to expand the scope of the intervention throughout schools in South Africa.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITe SLEEP RESOURCE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO BE MADE AWARE OF?

CBTi-web launching soon!

Is THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO LET MEMBERS KNOW ABOUT YOU?

Fun Fact: I put myself through graduate school by selling Mary Kay Cosmetics and drove a Pink Cadillac for many years!

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL TALENTS OR HOBBIES?

I am a musician. I have been singing the National Anthem for Professional/Semi-Professional/Collegiate teams for almost 30 years including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Penguins, sing for my church and have been in multiple bands singing jazz/blues/etc. and stage musical performances for many years.