Oct. 30, 2019 – When most people are winding down their evenings, the Center for Healthy Sleep’s team of registered sleep polysomnography technologists is just getting started. They stay up through the night monitoring sleeping patients to measure and identify physiologic changes, including the stages of sleep, respiratory abnormalities, cardiac arrhythmias, body movements, arousal from sleep and abnormal behaviors.
We started the tour at 6 p.m., a couple of hours before families check in for the night. I visited several of the six comfortable rooms in the Nelson Pavilion, all outfitted with a full-size bed or crib and an infrared camera so that technicians can monitor the child remotely. Children are often hooked up to an electroencephalograph to track brain activity, too.
Families check in at 8 p.m., and bedtime is around 8:30 p.m. Parents stay in the room with their child for the duration of the study. Typically, patients are between five and 12 years old, but there are occasionally babies and adolescents. It’s an early wakeup call for these kids; they are roused at 5 a.m. and then headed home by 6 a.m. No late check-out here! The rooms serve other purposes during the day.
Once the study is complete, the data is analyzed and a sleep medicine specialist interprets the information to determine the appropriate treatment. Common disorders diagnosed include sleep apnea, hypoventilation and hypersomnia. The sleep center conducts an average of 42 sleep studies per week, but frequently receives more orders than they can accommodate. For part of the year, eight extra beds are available in the Rose Pavilion, which helps to alleviate some of the demand.
Next, we headed into a room where the rest of the team was assembled, ready to eat dinner and play a round of sleep trivia. I loaded up a plate and sat down to play the game. This group certainly knew a lot more about their area of expertise than I did, but I still managed to get a few answers correct! The categories were “Rady Children’s through the years,” “Rady Children’s by the ages,” “global sleep” and “only at Rady Children’s.” Some of the interesting facts I learned included that
- the team has conducted 5,425 sleep studies since October 2016;
- thirty percent of children will have insomnia symptoms at some point in childhood;
- sixty-seven percent of children participating in the studies are between three and 12 years old;
- the youngest patient ever was just seven days old; and
- the oldest patient ever was 22 years old.
Our sleep center is unique in that it sees patients that other centers will not see, such as children with Down syndrome and autism. In fact, our center has conducted studies on 416 children with Down syndrome over the last three years and 175 children with autism. We’re here for all the kids!
We wrapped up with an enormous piece of chocolate cake for dessert and a new stamp for my passport. I think I need to go on a diet after all of the delicious food I’ve been enjoying during these visits! This was such a fun group with great comradery who clearly enjoy what they do. It takes a special type of person to work overnight while most of us are sleeping. Thanks for your commitment to the mission and to our kids!