Nancy Hamilton

Nancy Hamilton
  • Associate Professor
  • Director, Clinical Health Track
  • Director, Health Psychology Graduate Certificate

Contact Info

Fraser Hall, Room 446


Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2001


My early research drew heavily from the transactional model of stress and a broader self-regulatory social-cognitive framework. I have continued to work from this framework, examining cognitive predictors of satisfaction with childbirth (Stevens, Hamilton, & Wallston, 2011 and 2012) adjustment to chronic pain (Parenteau, Hamilton, Wu, Waxenberg, Brinkmeyer, & Latinis, 2011), sleep onset latency (Karlson, Stevens, Hamilton, Nelson, 2010) and massage-related pain relief (Karlson, Hamilton, & Rapoff, 2013). Our lab’s recent work has shown that motivation to regulate emotions differs across primary emotions, with more highly aroused primary emotions eliciting greater efforts to regulate emotion (manuscript submitted). Although clearly still relevant, these models have failed to account for energetic biobehavioral resources for coping with stress.

My research has documented the importance of this resource in a number of healthy populations. For instance, insomnia is correlated in cross-sectional and prospective studies of insomnia and mental health among middle aged adults (Hamilton, Gallagher, Preacher, Stevens, Nelson, & Karson, 2007; Karlson, Gallagher, Olson, and Hamilton, 2013). In addition, sleep disruption appears to mediate the relationship between test anxiety and exam performance in college students (data collection to be completed Fall 2014).

Among pain patients, the results appear much more deleterious. My research has led me to propose the Sleep, And Pain Diathesis Model (SAPD, Hamilton, Atchley, Taylor, Karlson, McCurdy, 2012; Hamilton and Taylor, 2012) which suggests that sleep is the primary causal factor associated with the pain and fatigue in Fibromyalgia. Consistent with this model, I devised randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of a sleep medicine intervention for FM patients (Fibromyalgia And Sleep Treatment, Project FAST). The results of this study offered partial support for this model. Sleep disruption was correlated with depressed mood and disability and that relationship was mediated by pain helplessness (Hamilton, Pressman, Lillis, Atchley, Taylor, 2011). Moreover, there was an extremely high prevalence of sleep disruption in our patient sample, more than 80% of our patients had mild to moderate sleep apnea and the remainder had evidence of disturbed sleep quality (manuscript in preparation). Unfortunately, treating the sleep disorder was not associated with either change in perceived sleep quality or symptom remission, indicating perhaps that our intervention period was not long enough or that it was mis-targeted. It may be that the sleep disruption in FM is not due to obstructive mechanical causes like sleep apnea. Instead, it may be related to descending cortical signals that are both related to pain and sleep disruption. Working with Lila Chrysikhou, we are testing the effect of TransCranial Direct Stimulation (TCDS) on FM pain (data collection ongoing).

Moving from working with pain patients to working with new mothers has required an adjustment in thinking about the role of sleep in psychosocial functioning. Collaborating with one of my graduate students, we sought to investigate how new mothers can maximize sleep quality in the face of an unavoidable sleep disruption (manuscript submitted). We found that new mothers can maximize sleep quality by altering health behaviors and not sleeping in the same room as the baby. More interesting, positive and negative social interactions with a primary partner, the baby, family and friends were associated with sleep quality. Next in the pipeline are manuscripts examining predictors of sleep state misperception, hormones (cortisol and oxytocin), and factors that moderate the effects of sleep on next day functioning.

Although my research career consists of a number of different threads, the final tapestry is united by a model in which sleep is a biobehavioral resource that affects our ability to function cognitively and socially.

Research Interests

  • Sleep
  • Chronic Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Emotion Regulation


My teaching tools and methods are informed by Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy and department educational goals. Irrespective of the particular course, my goals are to foster critical thinking, promote an appreciation of psychology as a science, and guide the process of intellectual discovery. I encourage the pursuit of excellence, but do so within a supportive atmosphere.

Undergraduate Education

The structure of my classes is designed to promote mastery at different levels of cognitive processing. At the junior level, the primary focus is to provide an empirical foundation in the neurosciences and an explanation of the research methodology. At the senior level, the emphasis is on synthesis and integration with an emphasis on methodology and cultural context. Thus, my juniors should be able to tell you what we know and a little about how we know it. Senior level students should be able to tell you about the limitations of what we know and that what we know is culturally bound.

I emphasize analysis and synthesis when supervising my research lab, which includes both graduate and undergraduate students. Currently, I have two honors students, one of whom has received a Psi Chi award that provided funds to support his training. Students in my lab work on projects from project conceptualization to data collection and analysis, describing and interpreting results. By the end of this semester, all of the students in my lab will have been involved in the submission of abstracts to regional and national conferences.

Graduate Education

I believe that the goal of graduate education is to promote intellectual and professional development in the context of an independent research program. Coursework should provide a basic foundation (writing, critical thinking, methodology), that can be harnessed in service of professional development.

Teaching: In the classroom, I focus on critical thinking and skill development. Students are encouraged to work cooperatively, integrating material from multiple sources, sharing and defending ideas. In addition, I have used seminar classes to teach specific statistical methods that are foundational in health psychology research but not taught in other classes in our program. Thus, students should leave my class with a range of intellectual, social, and practical tools that will enable them to work in the field of clinical health psychology.

Mentorship/Advising: At the graduate level, teaching and advising are closely intertwined. I routinely invite students to be coauthors on manuscripts, encourage all of my students to present their research at national conferences and to solicit feedback from experienced researchers in the field. I have served as an advisor, or co advisor for 14 students. Many of these students received support for thesis and dissertation projects (e.g., APA, Division 38; NIH F31 award). All of my graduates are employed in their field, four in tenure track positions at Academic Medical Centers, two in universities. Most have remained research active, with multiple publications, and four have applied for F32s and one received a Fulbright Fellowship. I see mentorship as my strongest teaching skill and my students achievements are consistent with that belief.

Teaching Interests

  • Health Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Selected Publications

Karlson, C. W., Gallagher, M. W., Olson, C. A., & Hamilton, N. A. (2013). Insomnia symptoms and wellbeing: Longitudinal follow-up. Health Psychology, 32, 311-319.DOI:10.1037/a0028186

Hamilton, N. A., Pressman, M., Lillis, T., Atchley, R., Karlson, C., & Stevens, N. (2012). Evaluating Evidence for the Role of Sleep in Fibromyalgia: A Test of the Sleep and Pain Diathesis Model. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36, 806-814.

Hamilton, N. A., Atchley, R., Taylor, D., Karlson, C., & McCurdy, D. (2012). The Role of Sleep and Attention in the Etiology and Maintenance of Fibromyalgia: A Diathesis-Stress Perspective. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36, 81–93.

Karlson, C. W., Stevens, N. R., Hamilton, N. A., & Nelson, C. A. (2010). Fatigue, Depression and Pre-sleep Arousal: A Mediation Model. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 24, 307–327.

Hamilton, N. A., Karoly, P., Gallagher, M., Stevens, N., Karlson, C., & McCurdy, D. (2009). The Assessment of Emotion Regulation in Cognitive Context: The Emotion Amplification and Reduction Scales . Cognitive Therapy and Research, 33(3), 255-263. DOI:10.1007/s10608-007-9163-9

Hamilton, N. A., Affleck, G., Tennen, H., Karlson, C., Luxton, D., Preacher, K. J., & Templin, J. L. (2008). Fibromyalgia: The role of sleep on affect, negative event reactivity, and recovery. Health Psychology, 27, 490-497.

Hamilton, N. A., Zautra, A. J., & Reich, J. W. (2007). Individual differences in emotional processing and reactivity to pain among older women with rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical Journal of Pain, 23, 165-172.

Hamilton, N. A., Gallagher, M., Preacher, K. J., Stevens, N., Nelson, C., & Karlson, C. (2007). Insomnia and well-being. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 939-946.

Hamilton, N. A., Nelson, C., Stevens, N., & Kitzman, H. (2007). Sleep and psychological well-being. Social Indicators Research, 82, 147-163.

Hamilton, N. A., Catley, D., & Karlson, C. (2007). Sleep and the affective response to stress and pain. Health Psychology, 26, 288-295.

Hamilton, N. A., Zautra, A. J., & Reich, J. W. (2005). Affect and pain in rheumatoid arthritis: Do individual differences in affective regulation and affective intensity predict emotional recovery from pain? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 216-224.

Hamilton, N. A., Karoly, P., & Zautra, A. J. (2005). Health goal cognition and adjustment in women with fibromyalgia. Behavioral Medicine, 23, 1-12.

Hamilton, N. A., Karoly, P. K., & Kitzman, H. (2004). Effects of emotional control on goal self-regulation in chronically ill patients. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28, 559-576.


My service record includes service to KU (at both the graduate and undergraduate levels), national organizations, and the local community. It reflects commitment to both graduate and undergraduate education, as well as service to the scientific community.

Graduate and Undergraduate Education

Service to the University has come at all levels of the educational process. At the undergraduate level (College Level), I have worked on committees devoted to specifying undergraduate educational goals, development of the KU core, and undergraduate advising. In addition, I spent a year on CUSA. At the department level, I am a longstanding member of the academic misconduct committee. Service to graduate education has included serving on search committees (most recently for the Social Program), and serving as the Health Psychology graduate training coordinator. Recently, this has involved a redesign of Health Psychology training to meet the new training guidelines from Division 38 and the Council of Clinical Health Psychology Training Programs (CCHTP) and planning a curriculum for a certificate in Health Psychology at the graduate level. In addition, I have served as the Professional Seminar coordinator for the past three years. I do not receive teaching credit or a course reduction for either of these roles.

Service to the scientific community

Service to the scientific community has evolved over the course of my academic development. Although I continue to review manuscripts to both national and international journals, I have also recently begun to be asked to serve on NIH study sections, Mechanisms of Emotion, Sleep, and Health (MESH); Cardiovascular and Sleep Epidemiology (CASE); and the Academic Research Enhancement Award. Most recently, I have been asked to apply for the position of Editor at the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Finally, I am the KU representative to CCHTP. As part of this group, I helped draft the training guidelines for the Training Taxonomy in Health Psychology. Thus, my service to the scientific community has become more specialized over the years and indicates national recognition of my research interests.

Local/Community Service

At the local level, my service has drawn upon my training in health psychology and interest in K-12 education. As a health psychologist, I have contributed my expertise and training to developing a running club at Hillcrest Elementary. Specifically, I helped to design the reinforcement schedule to reward student participation and helped to write a small grant to fund purchase of an electronic device to track student progress. At the Lawrence school district level (USD 497), I am a member of the Health Kids taskforce, and have helped to draft recommendations for changes to school policies to promote fitness and nutritional goals. Like my national level service, my community service brings to bear my specialty training in Health Psychology.