Sleep, Trauma, and Emotional Processes (STEP) Program

step program

The STEP (Sleep, Trauma, and Emotional Processes) program, led by Dr. Scott M. Pickett, examines the influence and interaction of vulnerabilities, such as maladaptive emotion regulation and sleep disruption, on negative mental and physical health outcomes. Primary vulnerabilities of interest are those associated with psychological trauma. Current projects utilize a variety of research designs from basic social and biomedical science to clinical trials.

For more information about the STEP Program, please contact Dr. Scott Pickett at or the Step Lab directly at 

Ongoing Projects

Rural Resiliency Hubs: A Planning Approach to Addressing the Resiliency Divide 

National Science Foundation 
Scott Pickett, PhD: MPI 

PI: Dr. Eren Erman Ozguven (Engineering), Jessica DeLeon (COM), Mark Horner (Geography); Les Beitsch (COM); Richard Feiock (Public Policy); Chris Uejio (Geography); Scott Pickett (COM); Tisha Holmes (Urban & Regional Planning); Ellen Piekalkiewicz (Social Work); Marcia Mardis (CCI); John Mathias (Social Work)

Addressing Alcohol Use Among Youth Living with HIV - Community Engagement Core 

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, P01
Scott Pickett, PhD: MPI and Core Lead 

For more information click here.


Demonstrating the Feasibility and Effectiveness of The Skills fOr Life Adjustment and Resilience (SOLAR) Program in an Underserved, Low-Resource Hurricane Affected Region of the Florida Panhandle

Florida State University Council on Research and Creativity's Planning Grant Mechanism 
Scott Pickett, PhD: Principal Investigator

The SOLAR program was developed by 21 international trauma experts and has preliminary evidence to suggest it is an effective intervention following a natural disaster, including pilot data from a study done following severe brush fires in Australia and following tropical cyclones in Tuvalu. The proposed study offers to train community volunteers as SOLAR “coaches.” SOLAR coaches are trained and supervised by a mental health professional and are given a structured and standardized strategy to address the needs of their communities in the event of a disaster. SOLAR provides an evidence-based, sustainable model of disaster response to address the mental health and well-being of affected communities.

Finished Projects

Project BioSLEEP

The purpose of this research his to see which substances found in saliva are associated with poor sleep quality and short sleep (getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night). The data from this study will inform future studies examining the same markers. This and future research can help create links between stress, obesity, sleep, and trauma exposure in humans to inform possible treatments and interventions.

Project SLEEP+

SLEEP+ is a pilot study that aims to test the feasibility and effectiveness of a 4-week online MBI on sleep and emotions. This is a pre/post experiment examining changes in stress, sleep quality, and rumination among participants who may or may not report sleep problems and trauma. In addition to a daily 15-minute guided mindfulness practice, the SLEEP+ MBI incorporates informational elements about sleep, mindfulness, thoughts, emotions, awareness, and acceptance..

Project MED

The purpose of this research project was to examine the consistency of predictors across a variety of health, emotion, and occupational variables in current or former emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and Registered Nurses. Variables of interest included sleep disturbance, posttraumatic stress symptoms, moral injury, mindfulness, burnout, and social support. Findings from this study will be analyzed and used to inform treatments that may be used to reduce distress in this population.

Project MSTER

The purpose of this research project was to examine the impact of a natural disaster in adults 18 years or older who had been affected by the events of Hurricane Michael. Community experiences and needs, sleep disturbance, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and other psychosocial functioning measures were studied. Findings from this study will be analyzed and used to inform treatments that may be used to reduce distress in this population (see Project SOLAR).

Project PIRATE

The purpose of this research project was to assess law enforcement/police interaction experiences and fear response in primarily racial and ethnic minority individuals. Various psychological measures and response patterns were measured to identify relationships between key variables. The findings from this study may be used to inform policy and training for law enforcement in order to reduce fatalities resulting from police interactions.

Project CASS 3.0

The overall aim of the study was to determine if men respond differently to women when feeling stressed, particularly if they have experienced childhood trauma.  Our goal in this study was to compare aggressive responses in men who have received negative attitudes/feedback from a female confederate to those who have received positive attitudes/feedback from a gay male or straight male confederate. Because so little research has examined the relationships among childhood trauma, emotion regulation, sexual assault perpetration, aggression, and gender role stress, the overall study could have profound implications in explaining the overall correlation between experiencing abusive trauma and later perpetrating aggression.

Project STAER

The purpose of the study was to further explore the relationship between trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptom severity, sleep, emotional processing, and dietary attitudes and behaviors. It was expected that participants with PTS symptoms will exhibit greater emotional processing difficulties on the two emotional processing tasks in comparison to the trauma exposed (non PTS) participants. Additionally, this study examined sleep disturbance as a potential mediator between PTSD and disrupted eating patterns.  These findings can help inform interventions for individuals struggling with disrupted eating and sleep following trauma exposure.


Habitual short sleep, defined as average nightly sleep duration of <6 hours, may contribute to problematic weight gain behaviors, such as increased caloric intake and decreased physical activity. Specifically, habitual short sleep has been linked to neuroendocrine functioning associated with decreased signals of satiety and increased signals of hunger. However, there may be differential patterns between men and women, suggesting sex-specific mechanisms for overeating. The study aimed to examine neuroendocrine differences associated with habitual short and normal sleep between men and women. These results could be utilized to inform treatments to improve sleep quality and prevent excessive weight gain.

Project TECH

The main goal of Project Tech was to compare a basic sleep hygiene protocol to an enhanced stimulus control protocol to improve subjective sleep quality and quantity by establishing the bed as a stimulus for sleep by reducing engaging in other activities while in bed (i.e. technology usage). It was hypothesized that both the control sleep hygiene group and the technology intervention group will have improvements in sleep hygiene, sleep incompatible behaviors, sleep quality, sleep quantity, and insomnia symptoms from baseline to post-intervention due to the sleep hygiene protocol with the technology intervention group showing greater improvements than the control sleep hygiene group. The findings from this study may be used to design general sleep hygiene programs that incorporate technology interventions to improve sleep quality, especially among college students.