The best time to identify a health concern that affects your child’s sleep is while he or she is sleeping, and the best way to do this is with a pediatric sleep study (also called a polysomnogram). A sleep study involves monitoring your child’s breathing, brain activity and vital signs during sleep in order to look for health conditions that may affect his or her ability to sleep soundly. When a physical exam and medical history evaluation do not provide enough information to diagnose a condition, your child’s doctor may recommend a sleep study.
In most cases, sleep studies take place overnight in a special sleep laboratory. This is a lab that includes a private room with an age-appropriate bed or crib and specialized equipment to monitor your child while he or she is sleeping.
What To Expect
What To Expect
You and your child will arrive at the sleep lab in the evening. Please make sure that he or she has not had a nap (including in the car on the way to the study) or consumed any caffeine the day of the sleep study. If possible, make sure your child has had a full night’s rest the night before the night of the study. Your child will stay overnight, so please bring the following:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Any items that may help your child fall asleep such as a stuffed animal or special blanket
- A change of clothes for the next day
You may also bring your child’s pillow from home. If he or she takes any prescription medicines, please bring those with you as well.
Once you get your child ready for bed as normal, a sleep technician will attach small metal discs called electrodes on the skin of the head, face, chest, arms and legs. These electrodes are connected to a computer in the room that will monitor and record information about your child’s brain waves, movements, oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing patterns during sleep. An airflow monitor may be placed on the face under the nose. There is no pain from the electrodes or monitor.
A trained technician stays just outside the room overnight, watching live video of your child in order to respond immediately to any needs he or she may have. You are welcome to stay in the room with your child during the entire sleep study.
To diagnose narcolepsy, your child will need to undergo a multiple sleep latency test the day after an overnight sleep study. After he or she takes five brief naps (one every two hours), the sleep medicine specialist will determine the average time for falling asleep and check for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is not supposed to happen during the day.
Nap studies are also conducted on babies less than 3 months old.
When the sleep study is over, you can get your child ready to go home or to go to school. A specialized doctor with experience in pediatric polysomnography interprets the results. The sleep medicine team will notify you when the results are ready and will send them to the doctor who ordered the study. Results are typically ready within two business days or sooner.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- A sleep study can help determine whether an underlying health condition may be affecting your child’s sleep.
- Make sure that your child has had a good night’s rest the night prior to the sleep study, and avoid letting your child consume caffeine the day of the study or fall asleep on the way to the study.
- You may want to bring special items to help your child feel comfortable and fall asleep.
- Results are typically ready within 7 business days. You will be notified when your child's doctor has the results of the sleep study so that you can call him or her.
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