Sleep screening test for kids

Elizabeth Kepreotes in the new children’s sleep screening areaPICTURE: FWLHD

Children and young people with suspected sleep disturbance from breathing difficulties will soon be able to do a simple, overnight screening test locally.

The child will sleep in the Paediatric Unit at Broken Hill Hospital with a small probe pegged to a finger to record breathing, heart rate and oxygen levels.

It is non-invasive and a parent is welcome to room-in with the child overnight.

Sleep disturbance for premature babies may be from pauses in breathing, called apnoea, that occur because the brain is immature and still developing, according to Elizabeth Kepreotes, who is a Clinical Nurse Consultant in Paediatrics at Far West Local Health District.

In young children, large tonsils and adenoids may cause obstruction in the airway so that the child has to rouse from sleep to obtain a full breath in.


Other children may experience sleep apnoea because of genetic conditions that cause muscle weakness or airway limitations.

When apnoea occurs multiple times each night and for prolonged periods, the child has poor quality sleep, which results in daytime sleepiness that effects growth, learning potential and quality of life.

A referral for the overnight oximetry recording, which measures oxygen levels, is from a GP to the Paediatrician at the Broken Hill Health Service. Parents will then be contacted when an overnight admission becomes available

Early identification of sleep-disordered breathing will speed up a referral to a specialist because it will be accompanied by evidence of the condition’s impact.

The Specialist may be a Sleep Specialist, if a formal sleep study called a polysomnography is needed.

Or an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, enabling a shorter wait time for a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy.

“Some children have been waiting for surgery because of the pandemic disruption and long waitlists,” said Mrs Kepreotes.

Tertiary Sleep Units around Australia also had closures due to COVID-19, so their waitlists are now extensive.

The screening test will enable the specialist to determine more accurately when the child needs to be seen.

“This new screening service will help to identify those children who require the earliest intervention for the most serious impacts of sleep-disordered breathing, expediting their care,” said Mrs Kepreotes.

COVID-19 precautions will continue, in line with current NSW Health advice.

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