Overnight Sleep Studies

The Sleep Study?

The sleep study or polysomnogram is likely to be a new experience for you and your child. It is a recording that includes measurements used to identify various sleep stages and classify various sleep problems. We urge you to learn more about sleep testing procedures before the sleep study so that the experience will be easy and interesting.

Sleep is not a simple process. Many parts of the brain control it and influence its different stages. These levels or stages of sleep include drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep, and dream sleep. It is possible to identify which stage of sleep a person is in by measuring different activities of the brain and body. In order to fully understand sleep and any problems with it, we need to look at various brain activities and body systems and their relationships throughout the night.

During sleep testing, the activities that go on in the body (brain waves, muscle movements, eye movements, breathing through your mouth and nose, snoring, heart rate and leg movements) are monitored by small sensors or discs (electrodes) applied to the head and skin with an adhesive. Flexible elastic belts are placed around the chest and abdomen to measure the breathing. The level of oxygen in the blood and the heart rate are monitored by a clip on the index finger or toe. Your/Your child’s sleep is also videotaped for later review of any abnormalities observed during the study.

While you are/your child is sleeping, various important body functions and measurements are recorded. The sleep technician will monitor the sleep pattern throughout the night. One parent is allowed to stay with the child for the duration of the study.

None of the devices are painful and all are designed to be as comfortable as possible. The electrodes may feel strange at first, but most people do not find them uncomfortable or an obstacle to falling asleep. The sleep specialists recognise that your/your child’s sleep may not be exactly like that at home. This usually does not interfere with obtaining the necessary information from the study. If you have questions or concerns about the application of the sensors, contact your doctor or speak with your technician before the sleep study.

After the study, a sleep specialist will review and interpret the record to help you understand specific sleep patterns. The sleep study and its analysis and interpretation are part of a complex, time-consuming and  intensive process and many hours of work are usually required by specially trained professionals to process the large amount of the data recorded. Because of this, you may take some time to receive the results.

Your doctor will be able to give you some idea when the results will be available. If a sleep disorder is found, treatment recommendations will be made and your doctor will be able to advise you on the various treatment options available.

In summary, we hope that your/your child’s experience with the sleep study will be a good one. Understanding the sleep process and the evaluation of sleep disorders will help you take an active and positive role in your own/your child’s care.

What to do for a successful sleep study?

1) Be mentally prepared for the sleep study

2) Take the usual nap. Avoid napping if it is not your/your child’s usual sleep behaviour

3) Avoid caffeine (coffee,tea, cola,chocolate) and alcohol on the day of the study

4) Wash and dry your/your child’s hair, and do not apply hair mousse sprays, oils or gels before coming for the sleep study

5) Let your doctor know if you are taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medication as certain medications may affect sleep and the interpretation of the sleep study

6) Do not discontinue any prescription medication without first talking with your doctor

7) Come early as preparation takes time and we aim to allow you/your child to sleep at the usual bedtime

8) Reschedule your sleep study if you are/your child is not feeling well as this will affect sleep and the interpretation of the study. Check with your doctor if in doubt

9) If you have/your child has special needs, advise the sleep personnel so that they can accommodate you

Dr Jenny Tang
Paediatrician,
Asthma, Lung, Sleep & Allergy
SBCC Asthma, Lung, Sleep & Allergy

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