About the Paediatric Sleep Clinic
The Paediatric Sleep Clinic has been established out of an obvious need for specialist paediatric sleep services for diagnosing and treating families with children and adolescents who are experiencing sleep problems. It is based in Adelaide, South Australia but does treat children and families from all over Australia including country and rural Australia and overseas. The Paediatric Sleep Clinic runs:
1. Individual consultations at its offices in Adelaide, South Australia
2. Telephone and Skype consultations for those in other locations
3. Group Sleep Solutions Sessions every month
Who heads the clinic?
The Paediatric Sleep Clinic is led by Dr Sarah Blunden (BAPsych Hons, MSocSc, PhD) who is a clinical psychologist and member of the Australian Psychological Society, Australasian Sleep Association, International Pediatric Sleep Association, Neuroscience Network and the Australian Council of Children and the Media. Dr Blunden has been researching and treating children's sleep disorders for several years at the University of South Australia and through her Paediatric Sleep Clinic in South Australia and Northern Territory, including “E-therapy” around Australia and with an overseas stint at the University of Michigan Medical Center Pediatric Sleep Clinic.
Research undertaken by Dr Blunden indicates that there is a large percentage of children in Australia who are in need of assistance with their sleep problems. Most sleep problems only last for a while and may be related to something in the child's life (going to school, divorce in the family, getting teeth etc.) But others stay around for months and sometime years. Chronic sleep problems can have long term effects on children's physical and psychological health.
Sleep problems in children (and adults !) can be largely divided into medical sleep problems (such as sleep apnea, sleep related epilepsy) or behavioural/psychological (such as difficulties getting to sleep or staying asleep, reluctance to go to bed or sleep related anxiety). These latter problems are the type of problem treated at the Paediatric Sleep Clinic.
You may believe that your child has a sleep problem. Here are some basic questions that some parents and children have about how we can treat a sleep problem at the clinic by a psychologist.
What does a sleep psychologist do?
A sleep psychologist specialises in diagnosing and treating children's sleep problems that are behaviourally/psychologically based. What is a behavioural sleep problem? A sleep problem may be the result of a pattern of behaviours that may be getting in the way of good sleep habits. A sleep psychologist can find ways to change these sleep related behaviours (such as sleep routines, how the parents and child interact, how the child behaves when they are sacred or lonely at night) and usually when the sleep habits are changed the child's sleep patterns will improve. A sleep psychologist can also investigate whether anything else in the child's life is worrying them and interfering with their sleep such as bullying at school, moving house or a divorce in the family. Sleep can be one of the first things to be effected when a child has a change in their lives or they are worried about something. If sleep problems are found to medically based, children will be referred to medical sleep specialists.
How are the sleep problems identified?
After you have made contact with the clinic you will be sent some sleep, behaviour and family history questionnaires so that we can get a good idea of sleep problems and know a little bit about your child. This information will help us to establish how we can best fix the sleep problems. These questionnaires are usually sent back to the clinic before the first appointment. During the appointment we will go through that information and much more, to get a complete sleep history from your child to try and identify the sleep problem.
Can my child benefit from a sleep treatment program?
Potentially every behaviourally based sleep problem can be fixed. This is usually the case even if you 'have tried everything!!' Sleep programs that retrain children (and their parents) into better sleep habits, need to change habits that may have been around for a long time and usually require some effort to fix. However, if you can stick to the sleep program, there is no reason why it will not be successful. The Paediatric Sleep Clinic will support you and your child to stick to the program until sleep habits have improved. In normal childhood development, sleep is one thing that can be controlled.
At what age can my child attend the Paediatric Sleep Clinic?
The Paediatric Sleep Clinic does not develop sleep programs for infants under 6 months, but many parents come to the clinic for some sound advice, support and “evidence based” information. The Paediatric Sleep Clinic does treat children from 6 months to 18 years. At each developmental stage, there are common sleep problems. As an infant, difficulty settling to sleep without parental assistance creates the most difficulty for families. In toddlers and pre-schoolers, bedtime reluctance, separation anxiety and constant ‘exits’ from the bedroom are the most widespread. In school aged children bedtime fears, nightmares and bedwetting are common and in adolescents, the most common problems are related to sleepiness and difficulty falling asleep. All age groups have specific problems and can be helped to resolve their sleep difficulties. When is the best time to start a sleep program? Sleep problems may develop quickly due to an event or gradually over time. When they begin to interfere with your child's daytime behaviour, if you, the parents believe that your child is not getting enough sleep and if your family is being affected by lack of sleep, then it is time to investigate how to change things. Any time is a good time to treat a sleep problem!
What can I expect from a sleep program which will treat my child's sleep problem?
Treatment programs for behaviourally based sleep problems are usually based on the psychological theory of reinforcement. That is, we reward children for behaviour that we want them to do, but we do not reward them for behaviour we do not want them to do. If poor behaviour (such as getting out of bed, tantrums at bedtime etc.) is rewarded by attention, then the behaviour will in most cases continue. We want children to go to sleep calmly and to 'self – soothe' themselves back to sleep during the night when they wake. We want to do this with the least amount of stress for the child and the family.
- In older children, this can be done by finding small and achievable goals to change bedtime behaviour. Rewarding a child with love and encouragement for achieving goals to improve their sleep will usually result in the child continuing to show good behaviour. Children respond to rewards and love and are pleased to be 'the boss of their sleep'. A sleep program will help parents and children to find the best way to motivate the child and parents to improve poor behaviour by positive reinforcement.
- In younger children, gentle sleep programs can achieve the same result even though we cannot 'explain' things to a young baby.
A plan will be put in place and a sleep program will be given to the child and family. A sleep psychologist can also help teach a child techniques to overcome nighttime fears, nightmares, night terrors, stress, bed wetting and separation anxiety.
The Paediatric Sleep Clinic is based on the Sensible Sleep Solution™, a method developed in the clinic from research undertaken by Dr Sarah Blunden and refined by Dr Blunden and Angie Willcocks. The Sensible Sleep Solution™ teaches a child to self soothe without the need for controlled crying. See below for parents comments on the success of this method used in the sleep clinic.
How long will it take to correct my child's sleep problem(s)?
Depending on what the problem is and how long it has been around will make a big difference to the length of time it takes to treat it. Every child and their family is different so solutions for one family may not work for another family. Some programs are finished after 4 weeks and some take longer. Once good sleep habits have been established and the child and parents know how to keep sleep habits healthy, that program can finish. If the sleep program is stuck to, there is no reason why sleep patterns cannot improve. The more the program is stuck to, the faster the improvement.
What are the costs involved?
Payment for the clinic services are expected at each session and are charged according to, but are less than, recommended fees of the Australian Psychological Society.
The cost will be between $190.00 and $160.00 for the first session and between $180.00 and $140.00 for the second session. After reimbursement with either Medicare or any Private Health Insurance there will be is a gap , often between $50.00 and $70.00, depending on whether it is a first or subsequent visit.Group clinics are available at reduced costs, but there is not reimbursement available for group clinics.
If you would like further assistance with your child’s sleep, you can decide which option is best for you:
1. Individual consultations
2. Telephone and Skype consultations
3. Group Sleep Solutions Sessions
To book an appointment either at the individual clinic you can Contact us.
To book an appointment for the Group Sleep Solutions session go to the Group Programs page for more information.