SIF 3rd Cohort Fellows - Thomas Bilterys, University of Warwick

Curriculum Vitae
  • Education

Sept. 2017 – Aug. 2022: Doctor in Rehabilitation Science and Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium

Sept. 2017 – Aug. 2022: Doctor in Health Sciences, Ghent University (GU), Belgium

Sept. 2015 – July 2015: Master in Rehabilitation Science and Physiotherapy, VUB, Belgium

Sept. 2012 – July 2015: Bachelor in Rehabilitation Science and Physiotherapy, VUB, Belgium

  • Experience 

Thomas completed his PhD in Heath Science from GU and Rehabilitation Sciences from the VUB in 2022. After his PhD, he worked as postdoctoral fellow in the Pain in Motion Research Group at VUB and the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Health. His research mainly aims to increase insight in the interaction between sleep and pain, and to improve the treatment of insomnia and chronic pain.

Oct. 2023 – Present: Post-doctoral researcher. EUTOPIA SIF. Warwick University, United Kingdom.

May 2023 – Sept. 2023: Post-doctoral fellow. Henry Ford Health, United States. Collaborated on two research projects: 1) Preventing Insomnia With Virtual Oneshot Therapy (PIVOT) and 2) Improving Negative Stressful Perseverations in Insomnia to Revitalize Expectant Moms (INSPIRE 2).

March 2022 - May 2023: Research Fellow / Post doctoral fellow / Project coordinator. VUB and GU, Belgium. Worked on several research projects: 1) Exercise therapy for knee osteoarthritis pain (KOA-PAIN), 2) Osteoarthritis and insomnia (PREMEO) and 3) Chronic spinal pain and insomnia (Insomnia).

  • Publications/Research achievements

Research Project:

New Approach in Chronic Pain to Target Sleep Problems: A Modified Version of CBT-I which Takes into Account the Sleep-Pain Relationship

Both insomnia and chronic pain are very prevalent and highly disabling global health conditions with high societal cost. Based on scientific evidence, they frequently co-occur and have a bi-directional relation. Currently, there is little done in clinical practice to address sleep problems in the management of chronic pain. However, previous studies explored the use of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I, the recommended first-line treatment for insomnia) and show promising results in chronic pain patients but also revealed some limitations. While group effects are promising, not all patients react well on CBT-I. Additionally, CBT-I seems to mainly improves sleep and has limited effect on pain outcomes despite the clear relationship. Previous studies applied CBT-I without any adaptations in function of the sleep-pain relation. Some patients also report inadvertent side effects and non-adherence.

Within this interdisciplinary project we want to investigate the effect of an adapted version of CBT-I which still embraces the cognitive-behavioural principles but also considers the sleep-pain relationship. Especially the use of “sleep restriction” will be modified to avoid potential sleep loss and inadvertent undesirable side effects. A proof of concept trial will be conducted to determine whether adapted CBT-I is more effective than conventional CBT-I by assessing adherence, functioning, pain and sleep outcomes at cognitive, behavioural and neurological levels. Outcome measures will be collected at baseline, post-intervention and 3 months follow-up. Results of this study are likely to benefit clinical practice and society, and provide a lead to a definitive trial.