New pediatric sleep lab offers help for kids in family-friendly environment

June 15, 2007

The Pediatric Sleep Medicine Offices, the first pediatric sleep lab in upstate New York, has started doing overnight studies in its new location in Clinton Crossings. During the day, the offices operate as roomy exam rooms, but at night, beds fold out of the walls and it becomes a high-tech and fully functional sleep lab. Previously, children who needed sleep studies for many conditions, including sleep apnea, were studied at the Strong Sleep Disorders Center, which is geared toward adults.

Heidi Connolly. M.D., director of the new lab and associate professor of Pediatrics, said building a lab designed around children and families filled a large need. As many as 10 percent of preschoolers snore – especially if they’re overweight – and as many as 2 to 4 percent of preschool-aged kids have sleep apnea. Connolly also treats patients with seizures and other potentially serious medical problems, the diagnoses of which are confirmed by monitoring children overnight in a sleep lab. Having the tapes and medical information recorded from the night not only helps Connolly make a diagnosis, it gives parents a glimpse of the condition, which helps them to better understand what is going on.

“Children with sleep problems are not just small adults. If you’re 40 or 80 and you can’t sleep at night, it’s a whole different ball of wax than if you’re sleepless at 3,” Connolly said.

8-year-old Jacob Noyes of Chili is one of those sometimes sleepless kids. His mother, Kerri, said that the new space is a comfort to her son, who suffers from sleep apnea and requires the help of a BiPAP machine, which helps to regulate his breathing while he snoozes.

“It’s obvious that the new sleep lab was designed with children and parents in mind,” Noyes said. “It’s really night and day. Kids enjoy toys in the waiting room, movies as they doze off, and even receive a muffin and juice in the morning, when they’re sent home. It’s more like a miniature hotel than an exam room – at least, in a child’s eyes.”

The rooms are bright, yet calming greens, yellows and blues and are outfitted with two beds (some also include cribs) – one for the child and one for the parent. These specially designed Murphy beds fold down from the walls and allow the parents and children comfort while sleeping, meanwhile saving space by day for the lab to operate as regular exam rooms. By working around the clock, the center can conduct as many as 28 overnight studies and 70 daytime appointments each week.

Connolly, who is board certified in general pediatrics, pediatric critical care, pediatric pulmonology and sleep medicine, has expertise in sleep and breathing disorders that affect children with craniofacial anomalies. She also has special interests in sleep-related breathing disorders that affect obese children as well as children with complex medical problems.

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Heather Hare
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