25-30 percent of children suffer from some form of sleep disturbance such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, bed wetting or night terrors. 2-3 percent of children have sleep apnea. While many childhood sleep issues are not cause for concern, a disturbance that reduces your child’s quality or quantity of sleep on a regular basis can lead to more serious problems including:
– Accidents and injuries
– Behavior problems
– Mood problems
– Memory, concentration, and learning problems
– Performance problems
– Slower reaction times
With the increased importance medical and public health officials are placing on quality sleep, more doctors are recommending that their child patients undergo a sleep study to diagnose or rule out a sleep disorder.
In a previous post, we described the most common sleep disorders affecting children, along with their symptoms. In this post, we explain what you and your child should expect if your doctor recommends a sleep study.
A sleep study can appear to be a complicated procedure, especially when the patient is a child. However, the process is actually quite simple. Technicians will explain the process, in great detail, to both the child and his guardian who will stay in the room for the entire sleep study (overnight). The child can bring his own pillow, blanket, stuffed animal or comfort toy.
What to expect during the sleep study:
- Child and guardian arrive at the sleep center. You may arrive in your pajamas or change at the sleep center. The child must wear a separate top and bottom.
- Child and guardian get acquainted with the technologist and the sleep study room.
- The technologist explains what will happen during the sleep study.
- When it’s time to go to bed, the technologist places sensors on the child’s head that attach to the head with a gentle adhesive. These sensors are the electrodes that will be monitoring brain waves during sleep (see the child in the picture at the top of this post).
- An electrode is placed on the child’s finger and stretchy belts around their abdomen to track breathing during sleep.
- Child and guardian go to sleep for the night. The guardian will usually sleep in a separate bed, cot or air mattress in the same room.
- While the child and guardian are sleeping, the technologist stays up all night and monitors the child’s sleep through a video camera. They also monitor heart rate, breathing and brain activity.
- During the night, the technologist may quietly enter the into the sleep study room to adjust an electrode that may have fallen off.
- In the morning, the technologists carefully removes the electrodes and sleeping belt from the child. Once everything is removed, the child and guardian are free to go!
- A few days following the sleep study, a sleep doctor will look at the information collected during the study to report on how the child slept.
- The report will be sent to the child’s physician to review the findings and discuss next steps.
Following the sleep study, there are treatment options available for children. If the sleep study reveals that the child an airway obstruction causing sleep apnea, treatments include breathing support (CPAP therapy) during sleep or surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids. If the sleep study shows that the child’s sleep is disturbed by a psychological or behavioral problem, pediatric behavioral psychologists can assist the child in finding specific behavioral techniques to help children develop better sleeping patterns.
We perform sleep studies at each of our sleep centers (click here to see our locations across Southern California) 7 nights a week, for children over one year old. If your child’s doctor has recommended a sleep study, learn more about having your sleep study with us.
If you are a healthcare provider looking for information about referring your pediatric patients for sleep studies, visit our online resource library. It’s full of tools and guides including CPT and ICD10 codes and guides to understanding sleep study reports and insurance coverage.
Other posts you may find interesting:
- Sleepy Students Perform Worse in School
- Sleep Disorders Affecting Children; Does Your Child Need a Sleep Study?
- What Causes Sleep Apnea in Children?
- Chasing Away Midnight Monsters: How to Handle Nightmares
- Toddlers and Sleep- Skipping Naps Decreases Joy, Interest and Understanding
- Why Do Kids Like Jahi McMath Need Surgery to Remove their Tonsils for Sleep Apnea?
- Doctors: “Start School Later, Give Students Time to Sleep”
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2014 and has been edited and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.