When Denise Gassner's son Finn was a baby, he seemed like a great sleeper.
It wasn't until Finn's grandmother, a pediatric nurse, spent a night in the same room with him while on vacation that the family realized something was amiss.
Then as a two-year-old, the toddler snored loudly, slept with his mouth open, and moved around a lot.
It turned out he had enlarged adenoids, which impaired his ability to get a good rest. His sleep was actually poor, stopping and starting in fits.
"It really triggered me because had somebody not said something, I would have never have even thought to ask," Gassner said.
"Sleep is critical for physical, emotional, and cognitive development in young children, and poor sleep can have long-lasting effects on mood, behaviour, growth, and learning," she said.
Finn had his adenoids removed and, at almost six years old now, is a healthy sleeper.
Along the way, Finn underwent a sleep assessment at BC Children's Hospital with the support of BCCH Research Institute's pediatric sleep lab team.
Through it all, Gassner became a big fan of the lab and the work done there.
"We got to see the whole process of how the sleep lab works and the team of doctors and how many different areas are involved in dealing with pediatric sleep," she said. "So I have become a family partner, and advocate, of the work that they do to try and help bring some awareness and support for the team."
Gassner, a UBC lecturer and founder of There's a Monster in My Closet, which helps families with sleep issues, is teaming up with the BC Children's Hospital Foundation to host an inaugural free World Sleep Seminar on March 18th from 8 to 9 p.m.
The aim of the seminar is to raise awareness and support for the BCCH Research Institute's pediatric sleep lab team and what they can do for families.
Registration for the event can be found on Facebook.
This is a free virtual event and is open to all families across the province.
It will consist of short presentations by representatives from:
- Pediatric respirology
- Infant and family sleep health
- Kelty Mental Health - Health Promotion and Health Literacy
- Child and Youth Psychiatry
- ZzzzPower for Schools
The seminar is of value for parents of middle-school children, too, Gassner noted.
Parents with questions about their kids' sleep that the team may be able to answer can submit them to Gassner: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently, there are 600 children in B.C. that require a sleep assessment, according to Gassner.
There are lots of reasons kids can't get proper sleep, Gassner noted, but there is only one approved sleep lab and it is at BC Children's.
There are long waitlists — sometimes one to two years — and logistical challenges with getting into the BCCH sleep lab, which means that only half (300) of these children actually receive care.
Thus, Gassner also wants to draw attention to a pilot project — Sleep Lab at Home program — that allows children outside of the Lower mainland to be sent sleep assessment kits so they can be assessed right at home, rather than travel to B.C. Children's Hospital.
The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is raising money in support of the program.