Practical Tips for a Successful Sleep Study

Sleep disorders are extremely common in children and your physician may order a sleep study for your child to diagnose one of these disorders. Parents will often worry about the night of the sleep study because it takes place in an unfamiliar environment outside of the home with a lot of equipment including a video camera.

Sleep studies are performed by registered polysomnography sleep technologists who have special training in conducting those studies and are credentialed by the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM), The Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT), or the National Board for Respiratory Care.

Our sleep laboratory at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has eight sleep technologists along with one lead technologist (Melvenna Allen, Frank Boyd, Sharon Long, Ryman Perez-Watkins, Jeralyn Pursh, Karen Quigley, Rosanne Wise and Craig Halper).

As we celebrate Sleep Technician Appreciation Week, they each shared practical tips with us to lead to a successful sleep study and make it less cumbersome for families.

1. MAKE IT A FUN SLEEPOVER: Talk to your kids about a fun night out and sleep over at the lab. Pack for the outing together. Parents or caregivers will be active participants in their child’s sleep study. Explain that the people in the sleep lab will be applying stickers to decorate their hair and monitor their sleep. None of it hurts, though it may feel very strange as it is applied.

2. THEY WON’T BE ALONE: It is very important for kids to know that you will be with them during the entire study.

3. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: If they become upset during set up, you are the best person to comfort them. Try to make the experience fun for your child. Although taking pictures of our technicians is not allowed, you can take your child’s pictures to share with others. Feel free to make a short call to the parent that is at home. You can even ask the sleep tech for a sticker or two for you to wear as a trial, or have the tech place some stickers on the stuffed animal. Think of all the unnatural conditions your child may have slept in – car, airplane, in your lap, couch – our body has a natural ability to adapt. They will sleep if they are sleepy.

4. BRING HOME COMFORTS (PETS NOT INCLUDED!): Feel free to bring a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or pillow. Anything reasonable that helps to make your child feel secure. A favorite bedtime book is also welcome. Have your child wear comfortable clothes but not footed pajamas because sensors and leads will be placed on the foot.

5. A HUNGRY CHILD IS AN ANGRY CHILD: Please eat dinner prior to coming to the sleep lab as you will not have access to a cafeteria. Feel free to bring a healthy snack for you or your child.

6. NO CAFFEINE: On the day of the study, do not give your child any food or drink that contains caffeine (chocolate or chocolate milk, coffee, sodas) or let them use nicotine products (for older kids).

7. NAP SCHEDULE: If they are infants or toddlers, adhere to their normal nap schedule. However, if they are four or older, please do not let them nap. Also avoid naps on the way to the sleep lab.

8. PERSONAL HYGIENE: Have your child shower at home. Make sure that they wash their hair, but do not apply conditioners and lotions afterwards. They should not paint their fingernails.

9. MEDICATIONS: Unless otherwise directed by a physician, your child should take their normal medications on the day of the study. You will be asked to list those medications. If your child is sick, or asymptomatic but currently taking antibiotics, you may need to reschedule the sleep study.

10. REMOVING THE LEAD GLUE FROM THE HAIR: Run a comb through hair with shampoo and conditioner on. Most of the time the glue used for the leads comes off by itself but if there are trouble spots, a nail polish remover can be used to get the glue off. Please be very careful not to get the remover in the child’s eyes.

If your child has special needs or health issues you feel the lab needs to know about, please call the sleep program one week before your sleep study so that we can help arrange accordingly.

In the spirit of the theme of Sleep Technologists Appreciation Week, we thank them as they continue to provide the invaluable service to our patients and families.

If you think your child is not getting a good night’s sleep – please contact your primary care physician to check for a referral to our Pediatric Sleep Medicine Program.