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Department of Anthropology: Parent-Infant Sleep Lab

The Team

The Parent-Infant Sleep Lab is home to a number of researchers, post-docs, Ph.D and Master's students.

Dr Charlotte Russell, BA, PhD

Sleep Lab Manager & Impact Evidence Manager in the Department of Anthropology
Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Sleep Lab

Contact Dr Charlotte Russell

Charlotte's research interests focus on the practical and theoretical application of evolutionary medicine to issues relating to childbirth and childhood, with special focus on the consequences of parent-infant separation. She also focusses on the translation of research evidence for public consumption, its role in influencing public behaviour, and in effecting change in policy and practice. 


Charlotte received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Durham in 2007, following a BA in Human Sciences in 2001. Her doctoral thesis focused on a craniometric analysis of British and Danish archaeological populations, while her undergraduate dissertation addressed issues relating to the use and knowledge of traditional (folk) and complementary medicines in a North Yorkshire village.

Having spent 3 months working as a research assistant in the Sleep Lab in the summer of 2001, Charlotte returned in 2007 as NECOT (North-East Cot Trial) project manager.

In 2011 Charlotte and Professor Helen Ball obtained ESRC follow-on funding to set up the Infant Sleep Information Source (ISIS) website. This website provides a means by which up-to-date, evidence-based information about infant sleep can be disseminated to parents and health-care professionals. We also have also developed an app to complement the website; educational materials; contribute widely to policy development; and provide training sessions for HCPs and volunteers working with parents.

Charlotte now holds a full-time research position in the Department of Anthropology, running ISIS and overseeing Sleep Lab projects; supervising student projects and lab staff; and pursuing her own lines of research which complement the Sleep Lab's core themes of investigation.

Dr Catherine Taylor, BSc, MA, PhD

Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology

Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

(email at


In 2007 Catherine graduated from Durham University with a BSc in Medical Anthropology (Health and Human Sciences). Catherine was awarded an ESRC/MRC 1+3 postgraduate studentship and continued to study at Durham completing an MA in Research Methods in Anthropology in 2008 and a PhD in Medical Anthropology in 2014. During her postgraduate study she was supervised by Prof. Helen Ball and became a member of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab ( Catherine’s PhD research was a qualitative follow-up of a large randomised trial known as the North-East Cot Trial (NECOT) which investigated the impact of cot type (stand-alone v’s side-car crib) on breastfeeding outcomes among mother-infant dyads in North-East England.

Since completing her PhD, Catherine has continued to work with the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab team on projects including the Risk and Reality Project exploring the effects of infant safe sleep education on parental bedsharing behavior, infant nighttime care and understanding of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) risk factors. She is currently the project manager for the Let’s talk About Sleep! Project (Fife, Scotland), a collaborative project between Durham University Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, University of Bristol School of Social and Community Medicine, The Scottish Government, Scottish Cot Death Trust and NHS Fife. The aim of the study is to test the feasibility of an intervention designed to improve parental awareness about baby sleep safety and SIDS.


C.E. Taylor, H.L. Ball & K. Tully. 2015. ‘Using video observations to understand night-time experiences of mothers and babies on a UK post-natal ward.’ Ch. 5 in Ethnographic Research in Maternal and Child Health, edited by Dr Fiona Dykes and Dr Renée Flacking.

Taylor, C.E. 2013. Post-natal care and breastfeeding experiences: A qualitative investigation following a randomised trial of side-car crib use (NECOT Trial). PhD Thesis, Durham University.

Research Projects

Department of Anthropology

Ms. Cassandra Yuill, BA, MSc

Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology

Project Manager in the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab

Cassandra completed her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Maryland and received her MSc in Medical Anthropology from Durham University in 2013. Her Master's focused on the nutritional and physical activity knowledge and behaviour of secondary school students in County Durham. She joined the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab in late 2013 as a part-time Research Assistant before becoming a full-time staff member in 2015.

Since joining the Sleep Lab Team, Cassandra has worked on a number of projects operated out of the lab. She currently project manages Let's talk about sleep!, a collaborative study between Durham University Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, The Lullaby Trust, UNICEF Baby-friendly Initiative, Best Beginnings, and Sunderland Royal Hospital NHS trust. She also assists in the management of the Infant Sleep Information Source, helping to launch the Co-sleeping Image Archive, and runs the infant sleep training workshops with Prof Helen Ball and Dr Charlotte Russell.

Her research interests include parent-infant sleep, infant care practices, health disparities & nutrition and critical medical anthropology & public health.

Ms Allison Dixley, BA, LLB, MA

PhD Student in the Department of Anthropology

A mother and former nursery nurse, Allison has two first-class degrees in Early Childhood Studies and Law. She obtained a Masters in Research Methods with Distinction at Durham, and is now in her second year of a collaborative ESRC-funded PhD studentship supported by UNICEF Baby-friendly Initiative and supervised by Prof. Helen Ball and Dr Charlotte Russell. Allison is the principle investigator for the Swaddle Sleep Study, a lab-based investigation into the effects of swaddling on infant sleep, feeding and behaviour. She has devised an innovative technique for assessing swaddle tightness, and is working with an electrical engineer to produce a calibrated pressure sensor.

Allison has written for numerous publications including Practical Preschool, Early Years Educator and Nursery Education. She is the author of Breast Intentions (Pinter and Martin Press 2014) a monograph drawing on academic research in anthropology, psychology, biology, and philosophy to shed light on the hidden emotions of early motherhood. In the 2015/16 academic year Allison taught the course "Health Illness and Society" at Durham University, instructing undergraduate students on approaches and methods of medical anthropology.

Her research interests include parent-infant sleep, breastfeeding, infant care practices, evolutionary medicine, critical medical anthropology & public health.