Lora Vaioleti entered her physiotherapy studies thinking it was all about muscles, bones and sports injuries. She didn't imagine she'd learn so much about Pacific peoples' sleep.
But a Health Research Council summer studentship in Pacific health research gave Lora the chance to examine this aspect of cardio-respiratory health - one of the four main areas within the discipline of physiotherapy.
Lora explains that obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), whereby breathing stops temporarily during sleep, is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and is also linked to stroke. OSA is often associated with having a higher body mass index (BMI), a health concern affecting many Pacific Islanders.
Her research measured the height, weight, blood pressure and level of daytime doziness among 43 Pacific people in Dunedin, looking for a link between BMI and sleep quality.
"We found that those in the sample group and those with a higher BMI had a poorer quality of sleep. We didn't find a direct link with sleep apnoea, but there was enough evidence to study it further."
Now, Lora is back in her hometown of Hamilton, working at Waikato Hospital as a rotational physiotherapist - involving four-month blocks in each of the hospital's musculo-skeletal, cardio-pulmonary, surgical and neurological physiotherapy teams.
"It's a great chance to work within the different areas before I decide where I want to focus in the future. Every day I learn about new areas of health that physiotherapy encompasses. And I would be interested in further researching Pacific peoples' health - there are lot of different options!"