A sleep study helps us check for sleep problems or problems breathing at night. The sleep study is a painless test that involves monitoring a number of different body functions overnight.

What do we measure?

During a sleep study, we measure how much and how well your child sleeps, his or her breathing, heart rate, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Why do some children need sleep studies? 

Children may need to have sleep studies for different reasons. These are three common reasons;

  • To check for obstructive sleep apnoea. Some children snore when sleeping and have periods where the muscles and soft tissue in the throat relax and collapse to cause a blockage of the airway, called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). When the airway is blocked, not enough air can reach the lungs, causing the level of oxygen (the gas we breathe in) to drop and the level of carbon dioxide (the waste gas we breathe out) to rise. This irregular breathing pattern disturbs sleep.
  • To check the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Some children with medical conditions affecting the chest (such as muscle disorders, spinal problems or lung problems), may need to have sleep studies to check if their levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide are normal. People usually breathe in less deeply (under-breathe) while they sleep, so any problems with oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are more obvious during sleep.
  • To check the level of oxygen or ventilation needed. Some children use oxygen or ventilation machines (such as CPAP or BiPAP) during sleep and need to be monitored with regular sleep studies to check they are getting the right levels of oxygen or ventilation.

Where will the sleep study take place? 

Your child’s sleep study will take place in the children’s sleep and ventilation unit, which is on level four of Sydney wing, Royal Brompton Hospital. It is a separate unit from the children’s ward (Rose ward). Please come straight to the children’s sleep and ventilation unit reception when you arrive.

Your child will have his or her own bedroom with space for a parent or guardian to stay overnight. Please let us know in advance if your child has any specific needs, such as a hoist. We will make your child’s night with us as comfortable as possible. 

What happens on the day?

Your child will usually need to stay in hospital for one night for his or her first sleep study. Please arrive on time at 4pm on the day of your child’s sleep study. 

When you arrive, our nurses will confirm your child’s details and take some basic measurements, such as weight and height. As part of our hospital infection prevention policy, we will also screen your child for MRSA.

One of our doctors will examine your child and make sure all medical details we have are correct and up to date. Your child will have some time to eat, play and get ready for bed. 

Your child’s consultant will decide what we should monitor and we will discuss this with you when you come in. A physiologist or nurse will connect the necessary sensors before your child goes to sleep. This may be earlier than his or her usual bedtime as it takes some time to attach the monitoring equipment. 

During a sleep study, we may record your child’s:

  • oxygen levels in the blood – through a small light sensor on the finger or toe
  • carbon dioxide levels – through a small sensor pad strapped to the forearm
  • movements and sleep disturbance – by recording video and sound
  • heart rate and rhythm – through three small stickers attached to your child’s chest
  • breathing – through two small sensors placed under the nose
  • chest movements – through two soft belts strapped around the chest
  • brainwave activity (EEG) – via  special sensors on the head (although this is less common)   

One of our specialist nurses will monitor your child during the night and can assist if your child needs any help.

We will stop the study when your child wakes up in the morning. You can usually go home soon after this. The nurse will give you all the paperwork you need to take with you. Sometimes, you may need to stay a little longer to see the doctor or have equipment adjusted. This does not hurt and your child will quickly get used to the different attachments.

If you come in for a Friday night sleep study, please note that you will need to leave by 7:30am on Saturday.

How can parents help?

The sensors and attachments we use to monitor your child do not hurt. However, it may take a little while for your child to get used to these as well as staying over in the unit. You can help by encouraging your child or distracting him or her while we attach the necessary equipment. We will do our best to ensure your child is comfortable, while making sure we get good results. We appreciate it when parents are supportive and positive towards the sleep study plan.

What to bring to hospital 

Please bring with you anything that may be part of your child’s bedtime routine, such as a special blanket, toys or books. This helps us to recreate, as closely as possible, the typical sleep your child has at home. 

It is important that you bring:

  • your child’s pyjamas or sleeping clothes (including a vest and socks for babies)
  • toiletries (such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, nappies, liquid soap and creams) 
  • all of your child’s medications
  • equipment your child uses to sleep (such as a ventilation machine, tubing and mask)

You can stay overnight with your child in their room, so remember to also bring what you may need.

What meals are provided?

Dinner for your child is usually provided at 5:15pm in the playroom on Rose ward and breakfast is served at 8:30am in the sleep unit. Please let us know if your child has any allergies or specific food needs. 

Parents can buy dinner at the hospital restaurant, which is open from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. The restaurant opens again at 7am for breakfast.

When will we know the test results?

It takes a few weeks to complete the detailed analysis of the sleep study. The sleep consultant will first review the study and the results will then be discussed at the multidisciplinary team meeting. A letter with the results and a follow-up plan will be posted to you and your child’s GP. You should expect to receive the results six to eight weeks after the study.

Sleep apnoea is caused by upper airway collapse during sleep; patients literally stop breathing, although for such a short amount of time that they don’t usually wake up.

Home sleep study for children in light of coronavirus (COVID-19)

To reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we are limiting the number of people in our hospitals, but are doing what we can to enable you to conduct sleep studies at home for your child using the instructions and monitoring equipment that will be sent by post as part of a home study box. The home study box will include instructions and video links that will show you how to set up and apply the equipment. 

These instructional videos outline the procedure for applying home sleep study equipment.

Home sleep study for children

How to set up your CO2 monitoring device

Who can I contact if I need to cancel or change my child’s appointment?

If you need to change your child’s appointment, please contact the paediatric bed co-ordinators as soon as possible so we can give your appointment to another patient and provide you with a more suitable time. 

Tel: 020 7352 8121 (switchboard), extension 2118 or ask for the operator and then for bleep 1256. 

Children's sleep and ventilation unit   

Level 4, Sydney Street, Royal Brompton Hospital

Telephone: 020 7352 8121 (switchboard) then either ext 2267 or ask for bleep 1291