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London Children’s Hospital marks opening of province’s 3rd pediatric sleep lab

Officials with Children's Hospital say the lab will also be used to research child sleep disorders and build up local expertise in the field. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

Officials with London’s Children’s Hospital are celebrating the recent opening of a new local pediatric sleep lab, one of just three in all of Ontario, saying it will help cut down on lengthy wait times children face in getting treatment for unchecked sleep disorders.

Such disorders can cause numerous health problems in children, and getting tested for them can take upwards of a year, according to Children’s Health Foundation, whose donors helped raise more than $400,000 to create the new lab.

“Predominantly what we’re looking for is something called sleep-disordered breathing in children… The most common diagnosis we’re looking at typically is something called obstructive sleep apnea,” Dr. Aaron St. Laurent, a pediatric respirologist with Children’s Hospital, said on Friday in an interview with 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady.

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“During sleep… in general, we maintain our airways quite well, but often when we’re asleep, our airways may narrow or even collapse completely at times, and that can really impact sleep and health.”

Some patients, he says, may have central sleep apnea, where the brain may fail to send the proper signals to muscles that control the breathing, or nocturnal hyperventilation, where nighttime breathing becomes sufficiently shallow that carbon dioxide builds up in the system.

Unchecked, he says, these sleep disorders can lead to impaired growth, behavioural problems and cardiovascular and metabolic issues, to name a few.

Click to play video: 'Respiratory monitoring device offers individualized treatment to sleep apnea sufferers' Respiratory monitoring device offers individualized treatment to sleep apnea sufferers
Respiratory monitoring device offers individualized treatment to sleep apnea sufferers – May 31, 2019

“It’s a challenge in the sense that it’s still certainly a limited resource, and hopefully it will become something that is increasingly available.”

It’s anticipated that once fully established, the sleep lab will be able to see more than 350 patients a year, bringing likely relief for many in the London area who, previously, had to travel to either Ottawa or Toronto for such services.

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Officials with Children’s Hospital say the lab will also be used to research child sleep disorders and build up local expertise in the field, in addition to diagnosing.

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“It has been a long road to open this sleep lab and we couldn’t have done it without the generosity of Children’s Health Foundation donors,” Lynanne Mason, director of pediatric inpatients, outpatients and regional health integration at Children’s, said in a statement.

According to Children’s Health Foundation, the largest donor for the project was the Air Canada Foundation, the not-for-profit launched by the airline giant in 2012 whose focus is on child and youth health and well-being.

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