London home to Ontario’s newest sleep lab for kids

The Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre is now home to Ontario’s third pediatric sleep laboratory, a facility intended to cut long waits to assess serious sleep issues that can have a big impact on kids’ health. 

Health officials discussed the new sleep lab at a video conference Wednesday in London, Ont.

Dr. Aaron St. Laurent, a pediatric respirologist at Children’s Hospital who specializes in kids sleep disorders, said the new lab will mean doctors can diagnose sleep problems sooner and parents and kids won’t have to travel so far to get assessed.

Currently, kids in Ontario typically wait at least a year to be tested for sleep issues and often have to travel to Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital or Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa.

Laurent said about one in four kids experience some kind of sleep disorder. If left unchecked, they can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, behavioural issues and problems at school.

“In opening the province’s third pediatric tertiary care sleep lab, we are helping to build capacity for sleep medicine in our own backyard and across the province,” he said. 

Parents can stay with their kids

At the lab, kids stay and sleep overnight while being observed by technicians who operate equipment that gathers data on everything from breathing to heart function. That data is then used to by doctors to diagnose problems.

The clinic has four overnight beds and parents are allowed to stay and sleep beside their child to make the kids more comfortable. 

The move to get a pediatric sleep lab in London has been underway for more than two years. As the demand for the service has grown in recent years, Sick Kids in Toronto stopped accepting referrals for older patients who live outside of the Greater Toronto Area. 

In addition to diagnosing sleep disorders for patients referred to the clinic by their doctor, there are also plans to use the new lab to conduct research on sleeping disorders in kids. 

“This is a field that is growing rapidly,” said Laurent. “You speak to the family who is not getting any sleep, and they certainly appreciate sleep medicine. It’s a field that’s becoming increasingly recognized.” 

More than $400,000 in donations helped purchase equipment for the lab, which is expected to assess more than 350 patients a year from across western Ontario.

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