My young child was referred for a sleep study (polysomnography, polysomnogram, PSG). What can I expect when I get there?
A parent or caregiver is usually required to spend the night next to the child during a sleep study. So, you will be right there with your child.
A sleep study is a painless test, but often requires a lot of explanation for a young child and family. That is often because although it is physically painless, it is a test that involves a lot of electrodes for monitoring. Many small electrodes will be placed on the skin and scalp to measure respiratory effort (breathing) and sleep stages (EEG to monitor brain waves). Possibly the least comfortable part of the PSG are the nasal prongs, which are small soft tubes that sit up the nostrils to measure airflow. They measure half an inch or even less. Blood oxygen saturation and often carbon dioxide levels during sleep are also measured. Note that there are no needles involved. Everything is taped or glued on. Audio and video recordings are also useful, and your child may be videotaped (using an infrared camera) throughout the night.
The sleep laboratory to which your child has been referred will usually have helpful reading material and tips for preparation. A lot of time and effort is invested in conducting a sleep study and there may be a long wait time. So, it is really important to prepare the child (and indeed the parents) well in advance! One can often find helpful videos of children having sleep studies on the internet, too.