Huge rise in children referred to charity for sleep service

There has been a large rise of children struggling to sleep enough. Picture posed by model. Picture

There has been a large rise of children struggling to sleep enough. Picture posed by model. Picture by Getty Images. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A charity is warning of a rising number of children referred to its sleep service.

NANSA, a Norwich-based charity which supports people with physical, sensory and learning disabilities, says the number of children referred with sleep disorders has shot up by at least 250pc in the last three years.

It comes after an investigation by BBC Panorama found the number of under-14s admitted to hospitals in England for sleep disorders had trebled in the last ten years.

That rise is felt at ground-level by NANSA - which provides a sleep service for children with disabilities and additional needs.

In 2014/15, when the service was piloted, NANSA received 26 referrals, but this number shot up to 72 in 2015/16.

And so far this year 92 referrals have been made.

The children are referred to NANSA's service from parents, carers, and GPs.

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Chris Towndrow, NANSA children and young peoples' service manager, said: 'Studies highlight that children with a learning or physical disability are one particularly high-risk group in terms of suffering increased rates of sleep disturbance.

'The sleep team have been astounded by the number of referrals that are coming through each week,' he added.

'The repeated absence of a good night's sleep can affect the whole family's mental health and damage children's learning and development long term.'

NANSA's sleep service is free for families with children who have learning disabilities and/or additional needs.

'We think it is vital to continue funding this service to respond to this need across the county and will be actively seeking to sustain and grow what we currently deliver in the future,' Mr Towndrow added.

Sleep services such as the one offered by NANSA provide an alternative to medication such as melatonin.

Avoiding this medication means reducing the risk of associated side-effects such as stomach-aches, bed-wetting, diarrhoea, and dizziness.

Sleep deprivation across all ages is estimated to cost the UK £40bn a year.

Mr Towndrow said NANSA is seeking more funding to keep its sleep service going, and to keep it free for disabled children.

If you would like to donate to NANSA call 01603 414109 or email

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