All You Need To Know About Children’s Sleep Studies

Motherhood and sleep deprivation tend to go hand-in-hand for many reasons, but the one main factor is children with poor sleep health. So what happens when your child’s sleep becomes more than just an inconvenience? The first step is generally a sleep study to investigate!

sleep study

Jess is a mum with three young children who have all suffered their own unique sleep issues.

She’s a veteran to the clinic overnight sleep study and we’ve asked her to share her experiences with the Healthy Mummy community.

Does My Child Need A Sleep Study?

Here’s the thing, in my desperation I’d always secretly hoped my children had a medical cause for their poor sleep health, as this would mean we could resolve it.

But knowing if there is cause for concern or if your children just has bad sleeping habits can be a little tricky.

There are common signs that your doctor will look for in your children’s sleeping habits and my wonderfully sleep-challenged children ticked all the boxes!

  • Open mouth breathing
  • Snoring
  • Restless – moves positions a lot
  • Trouble falling to sleep
  • Issues staying asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up tired and grumpy
  • Talking or walking in their sleep
  • Nightmares or Night terrors

If your children are like mine and suffer several of these symptoms, then speak with your family doctor. From there they will refer you on to the correct specialist.

Specialists involved in diagnosing sleep disorders include your paediatrician, an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) or directly to a sleep specialist.

What Happens During A Sleep Study?

Depending on what age your children are when attending, a sleep study can either be an adventure or really quite confronting.

All three of my children have had to go through it, my youngest went twice. So I have had experiences with a 10-month-old, 2, 3 and 4-year-old.

sleep study

Attending a sleep study requires having a multitude of wires and cords connected to your child. They use a thick paste to attach up to 12 cords directly on their heads.

They’ve got three stuck to their face, three beneath their chin, an oxygen tube in their nostrils, four stuck to their chest, one on their toe, two to their legs and then straps around their chest and stomach.

Each of these cords has a specific reason and records it own unique information. However, your child doesn’t care nor will they understand why they are on their body.

The younger the child the more difficult the process. However, once these cords are connected, it is generally smooth sailing through the night.

Then, you sleep, weary that there is a camera in your room and the technicians will be coming and going to reconnect any moved or damaged cords throughout the night. So, in all honesty, you probably won’t sleep at all.

You are then woken at 5am, cords and wires are removed and you are sent on your way with a bravery certificate (for the child, not you!) to wait for your results.

Hot tip: Have your spouse at home the following day so you can recover.

What Can Be Diagnosed?

The most common reason to be referred for a sleep study is generally for sleep apnoea. The diagnosis is then usually used to support a recommendation for tonsils and adenoids to be removed.

This was the reason for two out of the four of my trips to the clinic. But sometimes, there can be some really interesting reasons!

sleep study

Take my eldest daughter for example. At 16-months-old she stopped sleeping, staying awake until 3am and waking for the day at 5.30am, pulling her hair out in frustration.

She was sent for a study at 4 years of age as an elimination process and was diagnosed with restless leg syndrome and childhood insomnia.

Other conditions diagnosed with sleep studies:

  • Sleep apnoea (central and obstructive)
  • Insomnia
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Nocturnal seizures
  • Narcolepsy

When all is said and done, sleep conditions (mostly) are easily fixed. A sleep study is a breeze if you are adding it to a long line of restless and sleepless nights.

And whatever your diagnosis is, it’s likely that a better nights’ sleep is ahead of you.

Writer’s Note: Our diagnosis’ so far have been insomnia and restless legs for our eldest daughter. Obstructive apnoea, resulted in tonsil and adenoid surgery for our youngest and now unresolved apnoea. While our middle child just completed her study and is awaiting diagnosis. 

A new theory reveals the secret to a better nights sleep is pink noise.  Have you tried it?


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