Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation

Sleep Disorders



Teens Lose Sleep Over New Technolgies

Flinders Clinicians Trust Fund Supports Tomorrow’s Doctors

Award Winning Sleep Research

Signalling A Good Night's Sleep!


Teens Lose Sleep Over New Technologies
First Published: Enews - June 2010

Flinders investigations are leading the world in determining whether video game playing and electronic media use can have an impact on a teenager's sleep.

In a study at the Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders, 13 teenagers were assessed over the course of a few weeks as to how long it took them to fall asleep after 50 minutes of video game playing before bedtime, or 50 minutes of watching a relaxing DVD.

The study, led by Dr Michael Gradisar, found that those who played video games before bed took nearly double the length of time to fall asleep as the DVD watchers, although the difference was only an average of three or four minutes.

As was expected, a third of the teenagers also fell asleep while watching the DVD but none fell asleep while playing the video game.

"While the difference in falling asleep was only a matter of minutes it seems a small amount of activity does seem to produce a small effect," Dr Gradisar said. "Now we want to investigate whether there will be a bigger effect on sleep if the teenagers play for longer."

Dr Gradisar's research has found sleep problems occur in up to 50 per cent of South Australian children and adolescents at some stage of their
development, and 70 teenagers have been treated at the Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders since it opened in 2006.

The effects of sleep deprivation on young people can have "significant consequences" on their school attendance and learning and concentration levels.

"Poor sleep during teenage years has also been linked to elevated levels of depression," Dr Gradisar said.

"Parents should be mindful about even having electronic media in their kids' bedrooms - televisions, mp3 players, computers, mobile phones.

"It is well known that television viewing before bedtime is associated with young people going to bed later and getting less sleep, but even mobile phones can emit a lot of light at night which can also have an effect on a teenager's body clock." 


Flinders Clinicians Trust Fund Supports Tomorrow’s Doctors
First Published: Investigator - February 2009


Dr Ching Li Chai of the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health is the recipient of a three year PhD Flinders Clinicians Trust Fund research scholarship to explore ways to simplify and improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).


OSA is a common condition in Australia, which as the name suggests is caused by repetitive obstructions of the upper airway during sleep. The condition is characterised by pauses in breathing lasting longer than 10 seconds which are followed by an arousal and a gasp for breath.


Often the condition is present for years without detection as many sufferers are unaware of their sleeping habits, and frequently fail to report their symptoms to their general practitioners.


Common symptoms include daytime sleepiness, fatigue, restless sleep and loud snoring with pauses and gasps, but can also include morning headaches, insomnia and an increased heart rate/blood pressure.


A steady increase of OSA in Australia has created a high demand for sleep centres where diagnosis and treatment is undertaken, with some waiting lists as long as 6-12 months.


“Alternative, simplified and low-cost models of care for OSA are needed to address this growing burden of disease,” said Dr Chai.


“General practitioners who regularly manage chronic disorders such as hypertension and obesity, which are important risk factors of OSA, are ideally positioned to take on a greater role in the diagnosis and management of this condition.”


To help GPs Dr Chai has created a simple screening technique to assess a patient’s risk of OSA and to help with diagnosis she has validated the use of a portable home monitor called an ApneaLink (ResMed) that measures oxygen saturation during sleep.


Award Winning Sleep Research
First Published: Investigator - October 2004


For the third time in four years, the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health based at the Repat Hospital, has won the New Investigator Award at the Australasian Sleep Association Annual Scientific Meeting.


This most prestigious annual award, offered in the field of sleep research in Australia and New Zealand, was awarded to Dr Michael Hlavac who presented findings on the effects of low blood oxygen on arousability from sleep.


Dr Hlavac’s work has shown that low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) in sleep, as experienced by many patients with advanced respiratory disease, depresses the ability to arouse from sleep, rendering patients less able to defend against respiratory challenges such as sudden blockages to breathing.


“Hypoxia during sleep is characteristic of a number of respiratory diseases including emphysema, asthma and obstructive sleep apnoea. In such conditions, airway obstruction or low oxygen levels themselves trigger a brief arousal from sleep, which is thought to be an important protective reflex which serves to restore normal breathing”, said Dr Hlavac.


“Our results have confirmed that hypoxia prolongs the time to arouse from sleep in response to airway obstruction”


This latest award is testament to the very high quality of clinical sleep research conducted at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.


Signalling A Good Night's Sleep!
First Published: Investigator - January 2004


A new physiological signal amplifier is helping researchers on their quest to solve the mystery of sleep breathing disorders


The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at the Repatriation General Hospital is using a brand new signal amplifier to investigate the mechanisms that lead to sleeping disorders.


Their aim is to work out what triggers the tendency for upper airway patency and breathing patterns to become unstable during sleep. Their main focus is to determine why sleep breathing disorders, like sleep apnoea are 2-3 times more prevalent in men compared to women.


An essential component of sleep breathing disorder research is high quality recordings of a range of physiological signals such as muscle activity from the upper airway, airflow, airway pressures, diaphragm muscle activity and blood oxygen levels.


Low blood oxygen is a feature of sleep breathing disorders and is another focus of the research.


Sleep Apnoea (The Greek word Apnoea literally means "without breath") is a condition where the upper airway collapses during sleep. The body is making breathing efforts but not getting any air. Depending on the severity of the apnoea this can happen hundreds of times a night.


Professor Blessing says the clinical study will mainly focus on patients with primary Raynauds Disease.


The upgrade of the physiological signal amplifier was made possible with the help of funding from several sources including the FMC Foundation.


The funding has assisted the Sleep Breathing Unit to replace the out-dated clinical amplifier with a brand new more sophisticated machine and has allowed researchers to continue their clinical investigations into sleep breathing disorders.

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