Faculty Profile

Suzanne M. Bertisch, MD, MPH

Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Physician/Clinical Investigator, General Medicine & Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Administrative Title(s)

Instructor in Medicine

See publications

Research Unit(s)

Program in Sleep & Cardiovascular Medicine

Research Interests

My research is broadly focused on behavioral therapies aimed at improving quality of life and minimizing cardiovascular risk in patients with sleep disorders. My research is currently supported by a K23 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Using epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory research methods, my work investigates the use, mechanisms, and efficacy of both conventional and alternative treatments (e.g., yoga) in patients with both sleep disorders and/or cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., hypertension). During my research fellowship, I conducted a clinical trial examining the anti-hypertensive effects of a bi-level positive-airway pressure therapy in patients with hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, I have conducted several epidemiologic studies examining the use of mind-body therapies in patients with medical and sleep disorders, and am currently conducting research on the placebo effect in obstructive sleep apnea. Another focus of my work is to assess acute cardiovascular and autonomic correlates of mind-body breathing and its long-term effects, and potential mechanisms of meditative slow breathing upon autonomic activity and blood pressure. This work uses direct and indirect measures of autonomic activity (i.e., sympathetic nerve activity and heart rate variability). I recently helped to initiate an industry-funded project to explore the potential mechanisms of increased cardiovascular risk in patients with restless legs syndrome.  My clinical work focuses on the medical and behavioral treatment of sleep disorders and is based at both the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Sleep Disorders Clinic (BIDMC) and Cheng and Tsui Center for Integrative Care at Healthcare Associates, BIDMC.


Research Funding

5U34HL105277-02  Mittleman, Redline (PI)   NHLBI   9/20/10-5/31/13
“A Planning Study: Sleep Apnea Intervention for Cardiovascular Disease Reduction”
The goal of this project is to evaluate alternative study design features that address the potential for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) treatment to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) and to identify those features that would strengthen a later, large-scale Phase 3 randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Role: Co-Investigator

Investigator Initiated   Winkelman (PI)  UCB   2012-2013
“Cardiovascualar Control in Restless Legs Syndrome”
The goal of this project is to evaluate the presence of autonomic dysregulation in patients with restless legs syndrome as a mechanism of increased cardiovascular risk.
Role: Collaborator

NIH/NCCAM, K23 AT005104  Bertisch (PI) 2009-2014
Physiology of Mind-Body Therapies: Meditative Breathing and Autonomic Adaptations
The major goals of this career development award is to acquire knowledge and skills in autonomic cardiovascular physiology and mind-body clinical trial methodology and to characterize the acute and long-term effects of mind-body slow breathing upon autonomic activity.


2007, 2009 Overview of Insomnia
2011, Internal medicine residents, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, One hour lecture

2010, Sleep in the Menopausal Woman, Lecture - Women’s Health Seminar Series, Monthly Conference, Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

2007, Mechanisms of Mind-Body Medicine for Hypertension: Role of Respiration, Lecture, New England School of Acupuncture

2010, Integrative Medicine: The Evidence, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Grand Rounds, Boston, MA

2010, An Integrative Approach to Insomnia, Massachusetts Medical Society and Marino Center for Integrative Health, Integrative Medicine 101, Waltham, MA, Honorarium received

2012, Physiology of Mind-Body Medicine: Slow Breathing and Autonomic Adaptations, Benson Henry Mind-Body Seminar, Benson Henry Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


2007, Medical Pluralism in the United States: Is Integrating
Medicine Possible? Department of Anthropology, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC. Honorarium received

2010, Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the Hospitalized Patient Society of Hospital Medicine, Annual National Meeting, Washington, DC. Honorarium received

2010, Evidence Based Medicine in Complementary and Alternative Medicine Faculty, Society of General Medicine EBM Task Force/ National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, OR

2012, Mind-Body Breathing for Hypertension
American Society for Hypertension, ASH Annual Scientific Meeting & Exposition
New York, NY

2013, Mind-Body Breathing, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Neural Mechanisms in Cardiovascular Regulation, Glenedon Beach, OR

2013, Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the Hospitalized Patient, American Thoracic Society, Annual National Meeting, Sunrise Seminar, Philadelphia, PA

Selected Publications

Bertisch SM; Herzig SJ; Winkelman JW; Buettner C. National Use of Prescription Medications for Insomnia: NHANES 1999-2010. SLEEP. 2013. In press.

Bertisch SM, Wells RE, Smith MT, McCarthy EP. Use of relaxation techniques and complementary and alternative medicine by american adults with insomnia symptoms:
results from a national survey. J Clin Sleep Med. 2012 Dec 15;8(6):681-91. [PMID: 23243402]

Bertisch SM, Schomer A, Kelly EE, Baloa LA, Hueser LE, Pittman SD, Malhotra A.
Device-guided paced respiration as an adjunctive therapy for hypertension in
obstructive sleep apnea: a pilot feasibility study. Appl Psychophysiol
Biofeedback. 2011 Sep;36(3):173-9. [PMID: 21523471]

Bertisch SM, Wee CC, Phillips RS, McCarthy EP. Alternative mind-body therapies
used by adults with medical conditions. J Psychosom Res. 2009 Jun;66(6):511-9. [PMID: 19446710]

Bertisch S, Patel SR. CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea and the metabolic
syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2012 Mar 8;366(10):963-4; author reply 965-6.[PMID: 22397665]

Bertisch SM, Thompson A, Bazzano LA, Patel SR, Kaptchuk TJ, Smetana G. Placebo Effects on Sleepiness in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized
Controlled Trials [poster presentation]. 26th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, June 2012.

Bertisch SM, Thompson A, Bazzano LA, Patel SR, Kaptchuk TJ, Smetana G. Impact
of Control Type on Blood Pressure Outcomes in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, [poster presentation]. 26th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, June 2012.

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