Snoring toddlers and tired, unfocused teens are keeping specialists at Australia’s leading sleep centre for young people busy diagnosing and treating common snooze-related disorders.
The Woolcock Paediatric Sleep Clinic has treated more than 1,600 children and adolescents since opening its doors five years ago. Sleep specialist Dr Chris Seton says most patients suffer symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a night-time breathing condition in which patients are repeatedly deprived of oxygen as they sleep.
“Many referrals come from doctors with concerns about young people who snore,” Dr Seton says. “We know that this disruption to airflow and associated disruption of deep sleep is potentially damaging to a child’s development, so the earlier in life we can diagnose and treat the better.”
Specialists also treat many high school students who have insufficient sleep or poor sleep patterns and suffer side effects like irritability, poor concentration, moodiness and excessive daytime sleepiness. “For this age group, a sleep issue really starts to impact on grades, mood, and a teen’s relationships with their parents and peers.”
Good sleep is vital for healthy growth and development in infants and children; however, research shows 70 per cent of teenagers are chronically sleep deprived. It has been shown that children who develop sleep problems are more prone to anxiety and depression, antisocial behaviour, growth delays and learning problems.
The clinic, operated by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Glebe, Sydney, can diagnose and treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea, chronic insomnia, restless legs syndrome, circadian rhythm disturbance, as well as rare conditions like narcolepsy. Young people can be referred to the clinic through their GP, Paediatrician, Family Dentist, or Ear Nose & Throat Surgeon, and are assessed through a face-to-face consultation together with their parent or caregiver.
Unlike adult sleep clinics, the focus is primarily on learning, development and the psychological and behavioural problems related to sleep. “Children and young people are in the prime of learning and growth, and have different needs to older patients,” Dr Seton explains. “Their care should be tailored to ensure their sleep problem impacts as little as possible on schooling and key physical and social developments.”
GPs can download referral forms online. Click here to download the referral form or email the Woolcock on firstname.lastname@example.org to request a referral pad.