Pediatric Sleep Clinic Expanded to Meet Demand

As evidence grows regarding the important role sleep plays in cognition, heart health and longevity, it’s important to head off insomnia as soon as it appears. The Division of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at Golisano Children’s Hospital has expanded its Pediatric Sleep Clinic to better assist community physicians in evaluating causes and starting treatment for sleep problems.

Expansion is easing scheduling at the busy clinic, which conducts 2,500 office visits and more than 1,000 sleep studies every year. Since opening in 2007, the clinic has grown to include two sleep medicine physicians, a child psychiatrist and three pediatric nurse practitioners.

“A large percentage of our children with insomnia have anxiety,” said Heidi Connolly, M.D., chief of Pediatric Sleep Medicine. “We hired Child Psychiatrist Laura Cardella because, when the causes of insomnia in children aren’t medical, they are often mental-health causes, and she can help those children.”

The clinic’s most common referrals are for sleep apnea and snoring.

Children who don’t sleep well may have trouble focusing in school or may have behavior problems. Sleep is also important to brain development, learning and the immune system, and also affects a child’s growth, Connolly said.

“It isn’t uncommon for a patient receiving treatment for sleep apnea to have a growth spurt because the growth hormone is released during sustained deep sleep,” Connolly said.

For all of these reasons, sleep problems in childhood should be addressed promptly.

Children with developmental disabilities, such as autism or ADHD, commonly have sleep problems that shouldn’t be overlooked as families focus on issues that seem more pressing. Good sleep habits can help children and their families address other medical and educational issues, Connolly added.

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