Having a sleep study

What is a sleep study?

A sleep study is a test to measure your child’s breathing patterns while (s)he is asleep and involves an overnight stay in hospital.

Preparation for the study

It is essential that one parent or carer can stay overnight with your child for the sleep study, and you will be in a fold-away bed beside your child’s bed. If your child is on home ventilatory support (for example, CPAP or BiPAP), please bring all their equipment (including the machine, masks, tubing and so on) with you, so that we can carry out the test using your child’s normal equipment. We can also check it works properly during your stay.

Please arrive at the time stated in your appointment letter. When you arrive, you and your child will be shown to a bed where you can both get settled. A member of the medical team will visit your child to talk to you about the sleep study in more detail and answer any questions. Please tell the doctor if your child has any medical problems, and bring in any medicines your child is currently taking. The sleep technician will attach the sensors when your child is ready for bed or occasionally when your child is already asleep.

What does the sleep study involve?

One or more of the following will occur:

For a level 1 (oxygen and carbon dioxide monitoring) study -
  • A soft probe is wrapped around your child’s toe or finger to monitor his or her oxygen levels while asleep.
  • A electrode pad is attached to the skin on the inside of the arm to monitor carbon dioxide levels. This usually leaves a red mark on the skin but it fades and is not a burn.

For a level 2 (poysomnographic study), in addition to the above -

  • One stretchy band is put around your child’s chest and another around the abdomen (tummy), theses measure breathing movement and effort.
  • A small tube may be placed just under his or her nose to monitor breathing rates and flow.
  • A small microphone may be put on your child’s neck to monitor snoring.
  • We may also set up the video camera to record your child through the night.
Most sleep studies require a one night stay in hospital. You will be informed in advance if it is likely to be any longer.

Are there any risks?

There are no risks involved in sleep studies. Your child will be monitored during the study and the sleep technician or nurse will aim to make the night as normal as possible for your child.

What happens afterwards?

When your child wakes up and the study is finished, the nurse will remove the sensors. We will let you know whether you can go home immediately, or whether you will need to wait for a brief discussion with the doctor. There are no long-term effects of the study and your child can go back to his or her normal day-to-day activities when discharged. If you need to leave by a specific time on the morning after the test, please tell us in advance.

The sleep laboratory will analyse the various recordings made during the sleep study and you will either come to the clinic to discuss the results or we will contact you over the phone before then if necessary.