The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine

What to Expect from Your Child’s Sleep Study

What should parents or caregivers expect when having their child’s sleep studied?

What should I bring for the child’s stay in the sleep clinic?

What is a Polysomnogram?

A sleep study or polysomnogram is a test that measures body functions during sleep. Performing a sleep study on a child is exactly the same as conducting a study on an adult. During the night of study, the child will sleep at our lab and be monitored by sleep technologists.
Each test will vary depending on the individual case, but some measurements taken may include:


Brain waves (EEG)

(surface electrodes on the child's scalp)

Eye movements (EOG)

(surface electrodes next to the child's eyes)

Muscle movements (EMG)

(surface electrodes on and under the child's chin)

Limb movements (EMG)

(surface electrodes on the child's lower legs)

Heart rate (ECG)

(surface electrodes on the child's chest)

Breathing (Nasal/Oral)

(sensors placed onto the skin near the child's nose and mouth)

Breathing (Respiratory)

(small, elastic bands placed around the child's chest and abdomen or surface electrodes placed on the child's ribcage)

Blood Oxygen Levels (SpO2)

(small probe attached to the child's finger, and not taken from actual blood samples removed from the child's veins)

Esophageal Pressure (Pes)

(small tube inserted into the nose and placed within the child's esophagus [food tube] to monitor the child's work of breathing)

Video Recording

(the child's body movements will be recorded)

Other body functions may be recorded to answer special questions: CO2, seizures, and movement activity.
In some cases, testing may occur during the daytime hours in place of or in addition to an overnight study as ordered by the child’s sleep physician.
Sensor attachment will be done utilizing collodion (a glue-like substance) which can be removed. Please prepare for this process by thoroughly washing the child’s hair before the child’s visit to our lab. In some cases, a paste adhesive will be used to attach the electrodes and the child’s head will be wrapped with a bandage material to keep them in place. Other electrodes and devices are attached with hypo-allergenic tape.

Why Record All of These Things?

Disrupted sleep can disturb daytime activities, and some medical problems which occur during sleep involve a risk to basic health. These parameters are recorded to obtain objective information about the quality of sleep to better define the child’s sleep problem.

How Can the Child Sleep With All of These Things on Them?

Most children sleep well in the lab. They may be apprehensive about the hook-up, depending on their age, but our experienced technologists will work to reassure them. The body sensors are applied in a manner that will allow the child to turn and move during sleep. The technologist team communicates with everybody involved: parents, caregivers, and the child to make the testing environment comfortable and so that the procedures go smoothly. Having a parent with the child during the sleep test and overnight stay makes them feel comfortable. All children must be in the company of a parent, caregiver or family member during their stay at the lab.

Will The Sensor Devices Cause Discomfort?

No! Sometimes, in preparing the sites for sensor application there are mild temporary irritations; please inform us if the child has any known sensitivity to particular tapes or if he or she has a latex allergy. Some children experience temporary discomfort associated with the Pes (esophageal pressure manometry) procedure. However, this does not generally cause any significant discomfort.

What Should I Expect Regarding Meal Service?

The lab is an outpatient facility. Meal service is not provided, except for patients scheduled for daytime nap testing (MSLT or MWT). Please have the child eat dinner prior to arrival at 7:00 PM! Please bring snacks and drinks for refreshments, if so desired; vending machines are also available.

What Are Some of the Things I Should Keep in Mind During My Visit at the Sleep Clinic?

The lab opens at 7:00 p.m. for overnight studies. It is important that your child arrive on time! If you need to cancel the child’s overnight sleep appointment, please call before 2 pm, 650/723-6601. If you are running late after our office closes, please call the lab technical area at the same number (option #1) and leave a message. The main entry is secured at 7:00 pm; lab personnel will let you into the building after this time.

No smoking is allowed on the premises.

What Happens to the Recorded Data?

The recording of the child’s sleep test will be stored on a DVD. It will be analyzed in detail by a technologist and interpreted by a physician and our clinical staff. The sleep study results will be forwarded to you and the physician who referred the child to the lab. Once you have received the child’s results, please contact the clinic at (650) 723-6601 to schedule a follow-up appointment where the results of the child’s sleep study and treatment plan will be discussed in detail with the child’s sleep physician.

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