What Is a Sleep Study?

A sleep study (also called a polysomnogram) helps doctors diagnose sleep problems. It is an overnight test that can record a variety of body functions while a child sleeps.

Why Is a Sleep Study Done?

Doctors recommend a sleep study for kids who may have sleep problems such as:

How Should We Prepare for a Sleep Study?

Your child:

  • should get a normal night's sleep the night before the sleep study
  • can take medicines as usual
  • should not have any caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, etc.)
  • should not nap during the day of the sleep study

Plan to get to the sleep center at least 2 hours before your child's usual bedtime, or whenever the doctor requests.

What Happens During a Sleep Study?

The sleep technician will:

  • place sensors on your child in different areas, such as on the head, chin, and legs, and around the eyes
  • put an elastic belt around your child's chest and stomach to measure breathing

The sensors connect to a computer to provide information during sleep.

During a sleep study, doctors check:

  • eye movements
  • heart rate
  • breathing patterns
  • brain waves (EEG)
  • blood oxygen level (pulse ox)
  • carbon dioxide levels
  • snoring and other noises
  • body movements and sleep positions

A microphone records sounds and a camera may record your child's sleep. The sleep technician will be there all night, checking your child's sleep from another room. The technician can remove sensors and other devices if your child needs to use the bathroom during the night.

Can I Stay With My Child During a Sleep Study?

Yes, parents or guardians can stay overnight while their child gets a sleep study. The sleep center will provide a separate bed or sleeping chair.

How Long Does a Sleep Study Take?

Your child will spend the night in a hospital or sleep center. In the morning, the sleep technician will wake your child and remove all sensors. The test is over in time for your child to go to school.

When Are Sleep Study Results Ready?

Doctors get a lot of information from a sleep study. It may be a couple of weeks before results are ready. Usually, the doctor will schedule a follow-up visit to discuss the results.

What Else Should I Know?

Personal items from home can help your child feel comfortable during a sleep study. Be sure to bring:

  • pajamas
  • a favorite pillow, blanket, or stuffed animal
  • books
  • other items that are part of your child's bedtime routine

Most sleep centers do not provide food, so pack a bedtime snack if your child usually has one.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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