For children with suspected sleep apnea, your pediatric ear nose and throat doctor may recommend a procedure called a sleep study. This painless overnight test takes place in a clinic or hospital and provides your doctor with important information about your child's breathing, oxygen levels and heart rate while they sleep. For kids and parents alike, this can be a stressful time. Fortunately, there are ways to make it easier (and maybe even fun).
Explain the Procedure
Many kids are frightened of the doctor and explaining to them that they'll be spending the night at a hospital or clinic can seem scary. If your child is old enough to understand, it may be a good idea to explain why they need a sleep study and what will happen during the procedure.
Typically, kids will arrive a few hours before bedtime and be hooked to electrodes. They may have elastic bands placed around their chest and stomach, allowing for the technicians to monitor their breathing during the night. An oxygen sensor will measure their blood oxygen level. This is usually placed on your child's finger but if it's bothersome, ask the tech to place it on their toe, instead.
Explain to your child that this is simply a test to see how well they sleep and that it won't hurt at all. Sometimes, an explanation of the unknown is enough to quell their fears.
Wear Your Child Out
Since a sleep study only works when your child is sleeping, don't allow them to nap on the day of the procedure. Take them to the park, go for a bike ride or run their little arms and legs off playing kickball on the sports field. Your child will fall asleep faster after a day filled with exhausting play.
Watch What They Eat
Many parents take their child out for a special dinner before a sleep study but it's important to watch their diet. Caffeine, soda, chocolate and sugary desserts can have a child bouncing on the bed long after lights out. Make it easy for your child (and yourself) by limiting foods that may keep your child awake.
Make It Enjoyable
Bring a special stuffed animal, sleeping bag or favorite movie to your child's sleep study. Buy a new pair of pajamas, have a pillow fight or order take-out. Since you'll be spending the night with your child, make it seem like a slumber party.
Distraction is the key here: the less your child notices the clinical setting around them, the easier it will be for them to relax.
A sleep study probably won't be your child's greatest-ever memory but with a bit of planning and a bunch of fun, you'll both get through it just fine.