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Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Durham Inancy & Sleep Centre (DISC), Durham University

Helen Ball obtained her PhD in Biological Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1992. Her undergraduate degree was in Human Biology, and her interests span both biology and anthropology. Following her appointment as a Lecturer in Anthropology at Durham in 1993 Helen began a programme of research on night-time infant care, established the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab in 2000, and was promoted to Professor of Anthropology in 2007. In 2018 Durham University was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for the infant sleep research and outreach work of Helen and her team.

Helen studies the sleep ecology of infants, young children and their parents. This encompasses attitudes and practices regarding infant sleep, behavioural and physiological monitoring of infants and their parents during sleep, infant sleep development, and the discordance between cultural sleep preferences and biological sleep needs. She has conducted research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care. She pioneers the translation of academic research on infant sleep into evidence for use by parents and healthcare staff via BASIS -- the Baby Sleep Information Source website (


  • –present
    Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, Durham University


Recipient, Queen's Anniversary Prize 2018