Sleep Studies

What is a sleep study?

A sleep study is a test that can help diagnose certain types of sleep problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, sleep hypoventilation, narcolepsy and sleep related seizures.

During a sleep study, the sleep specialist will place sensors on your child’s body to record a number of different body functions, including:

  • brainwaves
  • eye movements
  • muscle tone
  • breathing patterns, Carbo dioxide and oxygen levels
  • heart rate and rhythm
  • leg movements

The sleep specialist may also record your child, using both audio and video, to watch how your child sleeping pattern and assess and hear breathing and snoring during sleep.

What are the types of sleep studies?

There are a few types of sleep studies. Your child’s doctor will decide which type of the test is best for your child’s specific sleep problems:

  • Polysomnography (PSG) is a sleep study that’s done while your child sleeps in a sleep lab overnight. Your doctor may add additional leads to learn more about brainwaves for seizures and or other problems during sleep.
  • A multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) monitors how quickly a child can fall asleep during the day time when given opportunity to nap. This test measures a child’s sleepiness levels during the day.
  • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) sleep study is used to study the treatment pressure to overcome obstructive sleep apnea in children. For this study, your child wears a mask connected to a CPAP machine that blows air at a precise pressure to help with breathing during sleep.

Sleep studies at Boston Children’s Hospital

The sleep laboratories at Boston Children’s are part of our Sleep Center, which was established in 1978. Founded by pediatric sleep medicine authority Richard Ferber, MD, the center is now under the leadership of Director Judith Owens, MD. At the Sleep Center, specialists from several different fields — including neurology, pulmonology, developmental medicine and nursing — work together to care for your child and to advance our understanding of children’s sleep disorders.

All of our doctors, nurses and sleep lab technologists specialize in working with children, and every aspect of what we do is designed specifically for children.