Ruth Benca

picture of Ruth  Benca

Chair, Psychiatry & Human Behavior
School of Medicine

M.D., University of Chicago
Ph.D., University of Chicago

Phone: (714) 456-7209

University of California, Irvine
101 The City Drive South, Bldg 3, Rt. 88
Mail Code: 1680
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
sleep, mood disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, development
Academic Distinctions
Dr. Ruth Benca received her undergraduate education at Harvard University and her MD degree and a PhD in Pathology from the University of Chicago. She completed a residency in Psychiatry and a fellowship in Sleep Medicine, also at the University of Chicago. She was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago from 1985-1993 until her move to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1993, where she was promoted to Professor in 1998 and served as Associate Chair of the Psychiatry Department from 1995-2006 and founding Director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research from 2006-2016, a unique facility, dedicated to the development of translational research in sleep medicine. She also served as medical director for Wisconsin Sleep, where she treated patients with a broad range of sleep disorders. She was recruited to UCI as Chair of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in 2016 and has built a comprehensive sleep medicine center at UCI, dedicated to providing outstanding clinical care for sleep disorders throughout the region as well as developing a world-class translational research program.

Dr. Benca has a broad background in basic and clinical sleep research and has served as PI or co-Investigator on numerous projects funded by NIH and the Department of Defense over the past 25 years. Her ongoing work has focused on the use of high-density EEG, actigraphy and home sleep testing to assess sleep and brain function in obstructive sleep apnea. She also uses high-density EEG along with brain imaging to assess brain activity in normal and pathological aging, including in patients with mild cognitive impairment and cognitively intact subjects at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Recent research areas include studying whether the addition of hypnotic medication to antidepressant therapy in patients with suicidal ideation leads to faster antidepressant response and reduction in suicidal ideation, using actigraphy to measure activity patterns and high-density EEG to assess brain activity during sleep in patients with insomnia, and studying sleep in a broad range of sleep disorders and in major depression, including the effects of slow wave sleep deprivation on mood in depression. In the past, she has studied the effects of light on sleep and behavior and the effects of sleep deprivation in animal models including rodents and birds. As a specialist in sleep disorders medicine, she has over 30 years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of complex sleep disorders. She has authored over 150 articles, reviews and book chapters as well as a single-authored handbook, Sleep Disorders: The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis and Management, published by Oxford University Press. She has served as President of the Sleep Research Society and on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. She has been a member of several editorial boards, including Deputy Editor of Sleep: Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research and currently serves a Section Editor of UpToDate for Sleep Medicine and as Editor-in-Chief of Current Sleep Medicine Reports.
Sprecher, K.E., Bendlin, B.B., Racine, A.M., Okonkwo, O.C., Christian, B.T., Koscik, R.L., Sager, M.A., Asthana, S., Johnson, S.C., Benca, R.M. (2015) Amyloid burden is associated with self-reported sleep in cognitively healthy late middle-aged adults. Neurobiology of Aging. 36(9):2568-76.
Sprecher K.E., Koscik R.L., Carlsson C.M., Zetterberg H., Blennow K., Okonkwo O.C., Sager M.A., Asthana S., Johnson S.C., Benca R.M., Bendlin B.B. (2017) Poor sleep is associated with CSF biomarkers of amyloid pathology in cognitively normal adults. Neurology. 89(5):445-453.
McCall W.V., Benca R.M., Rosenquist P.B., Riley M.A., McCloud L., Newman J.C., Case D., Rumble M., Krystal A.D. (2017) Hypnotic medications and suicide: Risk, mechanisms, mitigation, and the FDA. Am J Psychiatry. 174(1):18-25.
Weaver M.D., Vetter C., Rajaratnam S.M.W., O’Brien C.S., Qadri S., Benca R.M., Rogers A.E., Leary E.B., Walsh J.K., Czeisler C.A., Barger L.K. (2018) Symptoms of sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety are associated with adverse safety outcomes in healthcare workers. J Sleep Res. 1:e12722. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12722.
McCall W.V., Benca R.M., Rumble M.E., Case D., Rosenquist P.B., Krystal A.D. (2019) Prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in suicidal patients with major depressive disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Sep;116:147-150. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.06.015. [Epub 2019 Jun 19]
McCall W.V., Benca R.M., Rosenquist P.B., Youssef N.A., McCloud L., Newman J.C., Case D., Rumble M.E., Szabo S.T., Phillips M., Krystal A.D. (2019) Reducing Suicidal Ideation Through Insomnia Treatment (REST-IT): A Randomized Clinical Trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 1;176(11):957-965. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19030267. Epub 2019 Sep 20.
D’Rozario A.L., Chapman J.L., Phillips C.L., Palmer J.R., Hoyos C.M., Mowszowski L., Duffy S.L., Marshall N.S., Benca R., Mander B., Grunstein R.R., Naismith S.L. (2020) Objective measurement of sleep in mild cognitive impairment: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev 2020 Mar 13;52:101308. Doi: 10/1016/j.smrv.2020.101308.
Rumble M.E., McCall W.V., Dickson D.A., Krystal A.D., Benca R.M. An exploratory analysis of the association of circadian rhythm dysregulation and insomnia with suicidal ideation over the course of treatment in individuals with depression, insomnia and suicidal ideation. (2020) J Clin Sleep Med. doi:10.5664/jcsm.8508.
McCall W.V., Benca R.M., Rumble M.E., Krystal A.D. Blinding and bias in a hypnotic clinical trial. (2020) Hum Psychopharmacol. Sep 11:e2757. doi:10:1002/hup.2757.
Xu L., Xie D., Griffin K.S., Staley B., Wang Y., Nichols D.A., Benca R.M., Pack A.I., Walsh J.K., Kushida C.A., Kuna S.T. Objective adherence to dental device versus positive airway pressure treatment in adults with obstructive sleep apnea. (2020) Nov30:e13240. doi:10.1111/jsr.13240.
Last updated