A University of Queensland researcher has created a new way to quantify breathing patterns in sleeping infants.
Researcher Philip Terrill’s algorithm can determine from a breathing pattern the different sleep states of an individual, such as active or quiet sleep.
Terrill said a band, placed around the child’s chest, recorded breathing rates which were then analysed using the algorithm.
Current sleep monitoring involves an overnight stay in a hospital sleep lab with specialised equipment needing regular attention of a nurse, doctor or sleep technician.
Terrill hopes that his algorithm will form the basis of an automated sleep monitoring system that was cheaper and easier to use than current methods. It has been successfully tested on 30 children so far.
‘In the future, diagnosing a sleep problem may be as simple as putting on a breathing monitor during a night’s sleep at home, in your own bed,’ Terrill said. ‘This would mean that those children with sleep problems could be quickly diagnosed and treated appropriately.’
Minor infant sleeping problems can result in daytime sleepiness and inattention with prolonged problems causing behavioural and learning difficulties. Terrill said clinical research showed that up to 20 per cent of Australian children have symptoms of sleep problems and there were very few facilities available to investigate sleep problems in Queensland children.
He added that while previous work analysed sleep breathing patterns using conventional statistical methods, his work used techniques from a branch of mathematics called chaos theory.
The next step is to test his formula on teenagers and adults.
The 25-year-old Terrill has been working with respiratory and sleep medicine experts at the Mater Children’s Hospital.
His work is also part of MedTeQ, a centre within UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, which links biomedical engineering expertise from UQ and Brisbane’s major hospitals.
Terrill is a National Health and Medical Research Council scholarship winner and is supervised by UQ’s Associate Professors Stephen Wilson and Gus Cooper who is Director of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at the Mater Children’s Hospital.
(From left) Dr David (Gus) Cooper, PhD student Phil Terrill and Associate Prof Stephen Wilson