A bedtime story:

How one MBA graduate
is helping Queensland
sleep better at night

Person in bed in the dark on their phone

Image: Getty Images / Cavan Images

Image: Getty Images / Cavan Images

Phil Teuwen was born and raised in Queensland and describes himself as a country boy at heart.  Now based in Brisbane, the scientist and UQ Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate is helping Queenslanders get something we all need more of, especially during the pandemic – sleep.

In Australia, forty per cent of people are not getting enough sleep according to a parliamentary inquiry into sleep health, with the number rising even further during the coronavirus pandemic as people’s stress levels and anxiety rise.

The report identified sleep as the third pillar of a healthy existence, alongside exercise and diet, and made a number of recommendations, from changes to shift worker's break patterns to access to sleep health services for pensioners, and even the launch of a national awareness campaign.

The benefits of more sleep might sound obvious, but sleep expert Phil Teuwen says it can't be stressed enough. "Sleep doesn’t just affect how you perform at your work or your studies, it affects your relationships and interactions with friends and family and your entire physiology. It's critical to being able to function – not just in the short-term but for your long-term health too."

The 37-year-old is a sleep scientist, who has held a range of clinical roles diagnosing and treating sleep disorders, as well as education and marketing roles at tertiary institutions. Today, Phil is The Sleep Unit Manager for The Wesley Hospital Sleep Disorders Centre in Brisbane.

"When people get referred to a sleep clinic, it really does change their lives. Working with patients overnight to treat their disorder, you see the difference it makes immediately the next morning.”

“It's one of the things I love about this industry; you really make a difference to people – their health and their outlook on life; better sleep changes everything."

Image: Phil Teuwen / supplied 

Phil Teuwen

Although today, he is clearly passionate about it, he says sleep health was something he fell into almost by accident.

From a young age, Phil loved science, and he credits his high school biology class with inspiring him to pursue a degree in it. He studied a Bachelor of Science, with majors in molecular biology and biological science, but he didn't really know how he planned to make it a career.

Working late nights at a bar to fund his studies, he was tiring of the lifestyle and 3am finishes, when he met a fellow student, who was working in sleep health.

"I looked at what he was doing, working overnight with patients who had sleep disorders, and I'll be honest – the money and the ability to study while working were what first attracted me," he recalls.

woman asleep in bed

Image: Getty Images: Guido Mieth

Image: Getty Images: Guido Mieth

But Phil quickly grew to love what he was doing, and the job that was meant to help him through his studies became a career path. On graduation, he began working as a sleep scientist, helping to diagnose and treat a range of sleep disorders.

Phil wearing a mask at work

Phil Teuwen at work at The Wesley Hospital Sleep Disorders Centre in Brisbane.

Phil Teuwen at work at The Wesley Hospital Sleep Disorders Centre in Brisbane.

He then began to take on other roles in paediatrics, clinical education and marketing across several healthcare organisations, both public and private.

"I really loved what I was doing, but at one point, I was working five jobs, which didn’t leave enough time to really effect change or have a significant impact in any of these roles."
Person working in an office

Image: Getty Images: XiXinXing

Image: Getty Images: XiXinXing

At this point, he decided he needed a change in career direction. As a natural-born leader Phil had a great deal of determination, but wasn't clear how to best harness these traits in his career.

"It might sound crazy, and it probably was on reflection, but I decided to add studying an MBA at The University of Queensland to my five jobs," he says.

Phil says he expected the MBA to help him reshape his career direction, but he wasn't aware of just how much it would help him to step up to challenges.

"My leadership capabilities have grown ten-fold, and it's not just these skills, it's the confidence they bring too. I became aware of both my strengths and weaknesses as a leader and learnt to adapt my style."

Phil also took part in an international industry project, where MBA students from America and Australia combine forces to help an Australian organisation looking to enter the US market.

Phil with his UQ MBA project team

Phil with his UQ MBA project team

Phil with his UQ MBA project team

Phil's team worked with a company who uses intelligence from the data collected in mining machinery to improve maintenance programs. He says even though mining and sleep health are worlds apart, he learnt so much that he could apply in his own career.

"The mining industry was so far from anything I had experienced but working with students across time zones to deliver a strategy to break into a new market was phenomenal."

"It gave me a chance to step outside my expertise and test my skills in a totally different space. It absolutely strengthened my strategy and leadership skills.”

“Interestingly, this project has now spun off and become a reality as an exciting new FinTech startup. It’s really doing some great things in what is a whole new market for them.”

"The MBA taught me to lift my game because your fellow students at UQ are at the top of theirs. I’ve experienced firsthand that the quality put forward by UQ MBA students is often on a similar level as that from the Ivy league schools overseas.

"It was inspiring to work with a group of this calibre and really helped me to see where I needed to go from a career perspective."

"Without doing an MBA, I would not be where I am today.”

Image: Getty / Risa Wicaksana / EyeEm

Image: Getty/ Risa Wicaksana / EyeEm

Although Phil is now leading a sleep unit, he still keeps his finger on the pulse of the clinical side. "In my leadership role, I still get involved with the diagnosis and treatment side of things, because I am a big believer in leading by example; do as I do, more than do as I say," he explains.

Phil and his partner at the UQ Business School MBA Awards Night

Phil at the UQ MBA awards evening.

Phil at the UQ MBA awards evening.

"I guess it's also because I am so passionate about sleep. We all should be!" he adds.

Learn more about UQ’s

Master of Business Administration (MBA)