A sleep study is a procedure that is performed overnight in the Sleep Lab at Children's Hospital Colorado. This study is called a polysomnogram, and records different sleep stages and any detected problems in your child’s sleep and breathing.
The information below helps you understand what to expect and also answers some frequently asked questions.
What to expect during a sleep study evaluation
- When you arrive at Children's Hospital Colorado for your sleep study, a respiratory therapist will meet and bring you to your room in the Sleep Lab. There you will meet the therapist who will be doing your child’s study. Your child’s vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, height and weight) will be taken and your child will be asked to prepare for bedtime. You will be given a sleep history form to fill out about your child’s sleep history and patterns.
- During the night, the therapist will watch your child’s sleep and perform a polysomnogram test to monitor your child’s brain waves and muscle activity. This is done with the help of sensors that are placed on your child’s head, chin, legs, chest, and near the eyes. Gels secured with tape or special mesh netting help to secure the sensors. Your child’s head will be wrapped with gauze to hold the sensors in place. The placing of the sensors on your child is pain-free. Many of our patients are pretty amused by how they look with the sensors in place, so feel free to bring a camera so you have a picture to show your child later after the test!
- Two pulse oximeter sensors that monitor oxygen levels are also placed on your child’s toes or fingers. A flow sensor and nasal cannula will be placed at the child’s nose. These measure airflow and carbon dioxide levels. If your child needs additional equipment during the night to assist with breathing, a CPAP or Bi-Pap may be used. Your respiratory therapist will talk with you about using this equipment before the study begins.
The hook-up process can take between 1-1 1/2 hours. During the process, you may read bedtimes stories or perhaps watch a video. "Lights Out" designates bedtime when all entertainment ends and the sleep recording begins.
What should I do before the study?
- Try to withhold naps on the day of the study.
- Your child’s hair needs to be clean and dry.
- Please do not use any conditioners, styling gels, or hair oils.
- Do not let your child have any food or drinks with caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee, colas, or Mountain Dew.
- To help your child feel comfortable, you can bring pajamas, favorite pillows or blankets, bedtime story books or stuffed animals.
Can I see the Sleep Lab before my child's study so I will know what to expect?
Parents are welcome to bring their child into the Sleep Lab prior to their study date for a tour and description. Please contact the Sleep Lab to set a time to stop by and get a tour of the facility.
How do parents participate in the study?
One parent or legal guardian must be present for the entire study. You may step out of the lab briefly to take a walk or get a snack, but please do not leave the hospital building. Please make arrangements for additional adults and siblings to remain at home. If you are coming from out of town, we can provide a list of area hotels.
Where does the parent sleep?
The parent or guardian will sleep in the same room as their child. Each room has a recliner and space for the parent to spend the night. Be sure to bring comfortable clothes for yourself, in addition to the pajamas you brought for your child.
Will I be alone with my child in the lab?
No, the respiratory therapist(s) is in the control room all night, monitoring your child's sleep and the sleep of other children doing similar sleep studies. For that reason, parents are not permitted to stay up with the therapists in the control area in order to maintain patient confidentiality of the other studies in process. During the night, the therapist may be in your child’s room as necessary to adjust sensors or evaluate the child’s breathing.
Will my child be examined by a physician during the study?
No, the study will be attended by a respiratory therapist, specially trained in pediatric sleep practices. If the therapist has concerns during the study, she may call a physician or nurse practioner for consultation.
Does anything done during the sleep study cause my child pain?
The sleep study is almost always a non-invasive study; on rare occasions, it may be necessary to obtain a small blood sample, usually by pricking a finger. If this is the case, the sleep technician will discuss it with the parent before approaching the patient.
What if my child becomes upset?
Sometimes the sleep studies are harder on the parents than on the kids! Parents should know that although their child may cry during the set-up, they are not being harmed and the procedure is painless. There will be plenty of cuddle time after the set-up for comforting nighttime rituals.
Do I need to bring medications, formula, or diapers?
- Please bring any medications, formulas or food items that your child may need before bedtime, throughout the night and in the morning. Please bring your child’s diapers and/or a change of clothing for the morning.
- Parents are responsible for administering medications, feeding, and diaper changes.
- If your child has a CPAP/Bi-Pap mask, please make sure you bring this with you to the study.
- If your child uses a portable ventilator, please bring it the night of the study.
What time do we leave in the morning?
The sleep recordings are usually finished at about 6 AM and it takes about another 1/2 hour to disconnect the sensors. You and your child should be able to leave the lab by 6:30 AM. The physician ordering the study will receive the results approximately 2 weeks after the study date. Please follow up with the ordering physician.