What is a sleep study?
A sleep study is a test that is performed overnight in the Breathing Institute Sleep Lab at a Children's Hospital Colorado location. This study is called a polysomnogram and records different sleep stages and detects any problems in your child's sleep and breathing.
What to expect during a sleep study evaluation
- When you arrive at Children's Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado Springs or other network of care locations for your child's sleep study, a sleep technician will bring you to a room in the Sleep Lab. The sleep tech will take your child's vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, height and weight) and then ask your child to prepare for bedtime. You will complete a sleep history form about your child's sleep history and patterns.
- The sleep tech will place sensors on your child's head, chin, legs, chest, stomach and near the eyes. The sensors will be secured with gel, tape or special mesh. This allows the sleep tech to monitor your child's brain waves and muscle activity during the night. The sleep tech will wrap your child's head in gauze to help keep the sensors in place. The process of placing the sensors is pain-free, and parents are welcome to take photos to show their child after the test. If you feel that your child will not tolerate the wires, please the Sleep Lab on Anschutz Medical Campus at 720-777-4513, or the Sleep Lab at Children's Colorado, Colorado Springs at 719-305-9070.
- The sleep tech will then place two pulse oximeter sensors on your child's toes or fingers to measure their oxygen levels. They will also place a flow sensor and nasal cannula on your child's nose to measure airflow and carbon dioxide levels.
- If your child needs additional equipment during the night to assist with breathing, the sleep tech may use a CPAP or BiPAP machine. Your sleep tech will talk with you about using this equipment before the sleep study begins.
The preparation process can take 1 to 1.5 hours. During the process, you may read bedtime stories or complete your other bedtime routines. "Lights Out" designates bedtime when all other activities end and the sleep recording begins. The sleep tech will work with the child's caregiver so the child can get as much sleep as possible during the sleep study.
Before your child's sleep study
Before the sleep study, we will call to confirm that:
- Your child has not had any surgeries or hospitalizations within the last six weeks.
- Your child does not have a cough, runny nose, fever, congestion or any other symptoms of a short-term or recent illness. Illnesses can interfere with the accuracy of the study. If your child is sick when they arrive, the study will need to be rescheduled.
If your child appears to be ill on the day of the study, or you must cancel your appointment and call the sleep center as soon as possible. Please read the complete Sleep Center Cancellation policy (.pdf) for details on how to confirm or reschedule your child's appointment.
What to do the day of your child's sleep study
You can help ensure the success of your child's sleep study by:
- Keeping your child active and withholding extra naps or naps close to sleep study time.
- Ensuring your child's hair is clean and dry, and not using any conditioners, styling gels or hair oils.
- Avoiding all food and drinks with caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee, colas or Mountain Dew.
- Packing your child's favorite two-piece pajamas, pillows, blankets, bedtime stories or stuffed animals to help them feel comfortable.
Frequently asked questions about pediatric sleep studies at Children's Colorado
Can I tour 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 on Anschutz Medical Campus prior to their study date for a tour. Please contact the Sleep Lab on Anschutz Medical Campus at 720-777-4513 to set a time to stop by.
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?
One parent or guardian will sleep in the same room as their child. Each room has a cot and space for you to spend the night. Be sure to bring comfortable clothes for yourself, in addition to pajamas for your child.
Will I be alone with my child in the lab?
No, the sleep tech is in the control room all night, monitoring your child's sleep and the sleep of other children doing similar sleep studies. To protect patient confidentiality, parents are not permitted to be with the sleep techs in the control area. If necessary, the sleep tech may enter your child's room during the night to adjust sensors or evaluate the child's breathing.
Will my child be examined by a physician during the study?
No, a sleep tech who is specially trained in pediatric sleep practices will attend the study. If the sleep tech has concerns during the study, he or she may call a physician or nurse practitioner for consultation.
Are sleep studies painful?
No. The sleep study is almost always a painless study. On rare occasions, it may be necessary to get a small blood sample, usually by pricking a finger. In this case, the sleep tech 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, formula or food items that your child may need before bedtime and throughout the night and 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/BiPAP mask, please make sure to bring this with you to the study.
- If your child uses any medical equipment (portable ventilator, g-tube feeding, nebulizer, etc.), please bring it the night of the study.
What time will we leave in the morning?
Sleep recordings typically finish around 6 a.m. It takes approximately 30 minutes to disconnect the sensors. You and your child can expect to leave the Sleep Lab by 6:30 a.m.
When will I receive the sleep study results?
The sleep study results will not be available morning after the study. The physician ordering the study will receive the results approximately 2 weeks after the study date. Please follow up with the physician who ordered your child's study.
Contact the Sleep Lab
You can reach the Sleep Lab on Anschutz Medical Campus at 720-777-4513, or the Sleep Lab at Children's Colorado, Colorado Springs at 719-305-9070.