If your child has a sleep problem, an in-depth consultation with our experienced sleep specialists at the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital can be invaluable. However, educating yourself and your child about proper sleep habits is an important first step. The links below are intended to provide some of that education.
Even if your child has a sleep problem that requires treatment from medical specialists, we consider you and your child integral parts of the care team. We will work closely with your family to develop a plan to manage your child’s sleep problems.
From the team at the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders
Struggling to help your child get good sleep? You can find information and resources from our team on the Boston Children’s sleep page.
The classic book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, MD, founder and former director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, helps parents understand children’s sleep and shows them how they can cure most of the problems themselves. First published in 1986, the book has since been revised and expanded in a new edition.
A new book Ellie the Elephant has a Sleep Study, by Christy Beckwith one of our Sleep Technologists, helps give the parent and child an idea of what to expect the night of their first sleep study. It is available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You may also want to visit the Boston Children’s For Patients and Families website, which has information on the wide array of support services available to families at Boston Children’s.
Diagnosing the problem
At our Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, a specialist in pediatric sleep medicine will meet with your family to take a detailed history of your child’s symptoms and perform a physical examination.
If we suspect your child has certain problems (such as sleep apnea, nocturnal events or narcolepsy), we may order additional tests.
Since we may need to study how your child sleeps in order to diagnose her problem, we may recommend that you and she spend a night in our laboratory for a sleep study (also called a polysomnogram). This test is used to assess sleep quality and to identify sleep disorders. It records brain waves, eye movements, muscle tone, respiration, heart rate and rhythm and leg movements.
We also may recommend a daytime nap study (Multiple Sleep Latency Test, or MSLT). This test records a child's brain and body activity at repeated times across the day to measure how fast the child can fall asleep and to identify the type of sleep attained. The MSLT provides a measure of sleepiness and helps make specific sleep-disorder diagnoses.
Other tests may include:
- Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT). This test measures sleepiness by recording a child's brain and body activity (typically brain waves, eye movements, muscle tone, heart rate and rhythm and leg movements) at repeated times across the day.
- Actigraphy, a noninvasive test that uses a sensor to measure a child's activity and rest periods
- Overnight oximetry, a simple test that uses a plastic clip on the child's finger to track heart rate and blood oxygen content during sleep
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) filtration