John Kennedy

Professor John Kennedy


Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Professor (John) Declan Kennedy - Paediatric Thoracic Physician.

Leader - Sleep Disorders Robinson Research Institute.
Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide.

Trained in respiratory paediatrics at Great Ormond St Hospital, London and Royal Children’s Melbourne. Joined the University of Adelaide/Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide in 1991. My initial research training was in respiratory physiology and subsequently sleep medicine. Currently work as a thoracic physician with an emphasis on sleep issues in children. Our research group has concentrated on the evaluation of neurocognitive functioning in children with sleep disruption over the last decade. Our current work is focused on the effects of upper airway obstruction on autonomic and vascular functioning.

Paediatric Sleep Disorder Research Group

Professor Declan Kennedy and Dr Anna Kontos

Projects available

Location: All studies are based at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Robinson Research Institute (55 King William Road, North Adelaide)

Special requirements: Police Clearance, DCSI clearance

Brief description of research area

Our aim is to understand the impact of bad sleep on the health of the developing child. A large proportion of the population both adults and children suffer from sleep disorders. Our multidisciplinary team of researchers primarily focuses on the effects of sleep disordered breathing (SDB), which is commonly known as sleep apnoea and its effects on neurocognition, cardiovascular development, immune system, metabolic and nervous system function. SDB in children is common with as many as 10 % of children confirmed to snore on a regular basis. A spectrum disorder, SDB ranges from primary snoring (snoring more than 3 time a week, but no evidence of obstruction and no change in blood oxygen concentration), to the more severe obstructive sleep apnoea (snoring, obstructive events known as apnoea’s and hypopnea’s and reduction in blood oxygen levels and increase in carbon dioxide).

We are also interested in understanding the risk factors that predispose children to the disorder.


Research Project 1

Supervisor: Dr Anna Kontos

Title: Understanding the integrity of the airway muscles in paediatric sleep disordered breathing – a histological study

Project description: Sleep disordered breathing (habitual snoring to obstructive sleep apnoea) is common in children and is associated with reduced sleep quality. Children with SDB have learning and behavioural problems and there is preliminary evidence that the disorder all affects the development of the cardiovascular system.  Some functional tests suggest that the airway muscles of children and adults with the disorder (sleep apnoea) have reduced airway patency. However only one study has addressed changes in the airway muscle structure directly in adults and there are no studies in children. This study will look at the structural changes in airway muscle from the airway of children treated with tonsillectomy at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Tonsil removal results in some residual airway muscle removal. This study will use histological evaluation to determine structural changes in muscle of the upper airway and its relationship to SBD severity determined from parental report and polysomnography.

Projects available for: Third Year / Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2


Research Project 2

Supervisors: Dr Anna Kontos and Tara Crawford

Title: Determining the effects of paediatric SDB on metabolism and the endocrine system

Project description: Sleep disordered breathing effects multiple physiological processes including the metabolic and humoral pathways. Parents of children with SDB are more likely to report that their child on top of snoring, also sweat excessively, grind their teeth, move a lot in their sleep and wake up tired. This project will look at changes in stress, metabolic and humoral metabolites in urine samples from children with SDB compared to children who do not snore before and after sleep and compare changes with parents report of their child’s sleep and the results from polysomnography. We have collected more than 80 samples from children with and without SDB. Students will learn standard laboratory skills as part of their project.

Projects available for: Third Year / Honours

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2


Research Project 3

Supervisors: A/Prof Michael Stark and Dr Anna Kontos

Title: Sleep Disordered Breathing in Pregnancy – does it affect maternal and infant health?

Project description: Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is common and associated with reduced quality of life, increased morbidity and increased financial burden both to the sufferer and the community at large. Yet the impact of this same disorder during pregnancy receives little to no investigation both in Australia and worldwide. For the first time in Australia’s history the age of first time mothers has reached the third decade and more concerning is that almost half (46%) of new mothers are overweight or obese when they began their pregnancy. This is unprecedented in human evolution and therefore its effect on maternal and fetal health requires investigation. There is preliminary evidence that SDB in pregnancy is associated with worse maternal health and an increased risk of birth complications. This study will develop the Pregnancy Sleep Questionnaire which will identify women with pathological levels of the disorder early in pregnancy. It will use physiological measurement (polysomnography, ultrasound vascular measures) from the mother and tissue/blood samples from both mother and their child to corroborate the questionnaire outcomes. The aim is to develop a tool that will be incorporated into early antenatal care which will identify women with SDB that are at high risk of maternal and delivery complications.


Research Project 4

Supervisor: Dr Anna Kontos and Priscilla Vokolos

Title: Investigating the effect of SDB on vascular health?

Project description: Adults with sleep disordered breathing (SDB - habitual snoring/sleep apnoea) are at increased risk of a cardiovascular event early in life. SDB is also common in children with as many as 10% of children reported to snore on a regular basis. Most children remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Whether the cardiovascular system in children with SDB is also affected is less well understood. This project looks at the impact of habitual snoring and sleep apnoea on vascular function and structure in children with sleep disordered breathing. Students will be working directly on human tissue (tonsil) from patients who have had surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. We will be looking at the relationship between SDB severity and its effects on blood vessel development. Understanding the pathways that may lead to vascular disease may provide new therapies in the future.

Projects available for: Third Year / Honours

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2

  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2013 - 2013 Co-Supervisor Paediatric Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Orthodontics Doctor of Clinical Dentistry Doctorate Full Time Dr Vandana Katyal
    2012 - 2015 Co-Supervisor The effect of Prenatal Supplementation with Omega 3 Long Chain Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids (LCPUFA) on Childhood Allergic Disease at Six Years of Age Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Karen Best
    2012 - 2017 Principal Supervisor An Integrated Understanding of the Effects of Sleep Disordered Breathing on the Physiology of the Developing Child Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Anna Kontos
    2008 - 2011 Co-Supervisor Sleep and snoring in infancy: Prevalence and effects on cognitive development, maternal mental health and family functioning Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Alicia Marie Piteo
    2006 - 2010 Co-Supervisor Sleep/Wake Patterns and Sleep Problems in South Australian Children Aged 5-10 Years: Biopsychosocial Determinants and Effects on Behaviour Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Sarah Biggs
    2004 - 2011 Principal Supervisor Eczema, Sleep and Daytime Functioning in Children Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Danny Camfferman
  • Position: Professor
  • Phone: 81617234
  • Email:
  • Fax: 81617031
  • Campus: Womens & Childrens Hospital
  • Building: WCH - Clarence Rieger Building, floor 2
  • Org Unit: Women's and Children's Health

Connect With Me
External Profiles