Sleep Study (Polysomnography)

At Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, we offer one of the nation’s only sleep medicine programs designed specifically for children, teens and adults who have disabilities and complex conditions.

In addition, our sleep medicine experts collaborate with other Gillette specialists, such as neurologists and pulmonologists, to provide comprehensive care for every patient. Through Gillette Lifetime Specialty Healthcare, we care for patients whose needs continue into adulthood.

Gillette is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Our sleep medicine experts specialize in the unique needs of children, teens and adults who have disabilities and complex conditions.
  • We believe that addressing sleep disorders and disturbances can promote health and well-being.
  • Our providers collaborate to provide comprehensive treatment plans.
  • Our facilities and technology are designed specifically for your needs.
  • We believe that people who have disabilities deserve a lifetime of excellent health care—from birth through adulthood.


A sleep study (polysomnography) is a painless overnight study to evaluate a patient for sleep disorders. Concerns might include circadian rhythm disorders (sleeping at the wrong times), hypersomnolence (excessive sleepiness), insomnia, night terrors, parasomnias (unnatural behaviors during sleep), restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep).

A sleep study generally includes monitoring a patient’s blood pressure, electrocardiographic activity, blood oxygen level, brain wave pattern (through video electroencephalogram), eye movement, airflow through the nose and mouth, and movement of respiratory muscles and limbs. Collecting information while a child sleeps gives us a better understanding of what’s causing sleep issues.

Candidates for a Sleep Study

Although any child can have trouble sleeping, those who have complex medical conditions are at greater risk for sleep disorders.

Sleep problems affect about 30 percent of children who have:

Often, these children have health issues that sleep problems can complicate. Our pediatric sleep medicine specialists work closely with families to resolve sleep disorders and achieve a better night’s rest.

In addition to working with children who have disabilities, our Sleep Health Clinic cares for typically developing children who experience sleep disorders. Poor sleep can affect growth, attention, learning, social behavior and other abilities in otherwise healthy children.

Sleep disorders we treat most often include:

  • Circadian rhythm disorder (sleeping at the wrong times)
  • Hypersomnolence (excessive sleepiness)
  • Insomnia
  • Night terrors
  • Parasomnias (unnatural behaviors during sleep)
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep)

What to Expect During a Sleep Study

We conduct sleep studies at our St. Paul Campus. The clinic features sound- and light-proof rooms, along with state-of-the-art equipment to monitor sleep. We offer a comfortable, safe environment for children, including children who have disabilities and complex conditions.

Getting Ready

Technologists—some of whom are also respiratory therapists—prepare patients for sleep studies by placing sensors around the head to record electrical currents in the brain. Other equipment measures breathing, heart rate, eye and limb movements, and oxygen levels. That lets us be aware of breathing issues, drops in oxygen level, or leg movements that might be disrupting sleep.

Patients bring their own medications, nutritional supplies and formulas, and tubing for suctioning and respiratory care. We encourage you to also bring a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, pillow, pajamas, and any other comforting things for bedtime. Patients can watch a favorite DVD or read a book during the preparation and to help relax before bedtime. A parent or caregiver stays overnight near the patient.

During the Study

Our sleep technologists monitor children overnight and report the results to our sleep medicine physicians. Each patient has at least one sleep technologist monitoring him or her. (Most other clinics, in contrast, have one technologist for every two patients.) We offer nearby sleeping accommodations for a parent or caregiver, who can call to check in anytime during the sleep study. A parent or caregiver may sleep in the room with the patient during certain studies if doing so won’t interfere with testing.

After the Study

In most cases, a sleep study ends at 6 a.m. and discharge takes place at 7 a.m. After the test, our sleep specialists analyze the data, identify issues and make recommendations. Physicians call parents or caretakers to review the results of the sleep study and discuss the next steps. We work with families to change behaviors that might keep children from sleeping, and we suggest medications or other interventions to improve sleep patterns.

Sleep Study Safety

An overnight sleep study is a safe and painless test. Because many of our patients have complex conditions, we have convenient access to Gillette's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit should an urgent situation arise. Clinic rooms have hospital beds, rather than traditional beds, to maximize safety during sleep. Suction and oxygen equipment, as well as lift systems, are available.

Preparing for Your Visit

At Gillette, we’re committed to helping you feel prepared and supported. That’s why we offer resources to help you prepare for your sleep study. Our video will help you and your child understand what happens during a sleep study.

Additional Resources

We also offer a booklet titled "All About Your Sleep Study" that helps families prepare their children for their upcoming visit.

In addition, we sometimes ask families to fill out a sleep health log before clinic visits or an overnight sleep study.

Why Gillette?

Because all children deserve a lifetime of amazing health care.

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