Last week my one year old had to go to for a sleep study at Yale Children’s Hospital. He has not been sleeping well and we have had concerns about his breathing and restlessness at night. He also has small airways due to a genetic condition so his medical team decided that a sleep study would be a good idea. I had no idea what to expect and I have to confess that I was nervous. I spent a considerable amount of time on Google researching the Yale sleep center and sleep study protocols. I even watched the sleep center’s promotional video on their website. Despite all of my research, I was not well prepared for the sleep study at all. By sharing my experience I hope that it helps another mom who might also have a little one who needs a sleep study.
My son’s sleep study was scheduled for 7:30 pm. I was instructed to make sure that my son and I had both eaten dinner before arrival and to make sure that my son was wearing 2 piece pajamas. Unfortunately, we live about an hour and 15 minutes away from Yale and I wanted to make sure I allowed time to find parking and check in so my son and I had to eat dinner ridiculously early. I was told that the reason that we had to eat prior to coming was that the cafeteria would be closed. I packed a variety of snacks in my overnight bag assuming that I would have time to have a second bite after my son was asleep. I also packed a book because there was no way I was going to fall asleep at 7:30 myself. Little did I know I would literally not have 5 minutes to do either of those activities.
I arrived and found parking with about 20 minutes to spare which I was proud of, since let’s be honest – late could be my middle name. Finding check in threw me for a bit of a loop since it turns out that the children’s hospital is actually INSIDE the main hospital building but I soon found the appropriate check-in location and went through all of the COVID screening questions. I was instructed to wait in the registration area until a tech from the sleep center came to get us. My son was a little fussy because my husband and I had done our best to keep him from napping all day in hopes that he would be able to fall asleep sooner than his normal 12:30/1 am timeframe. I had to keep moving the stroller to keep him from complaining. At 7:45, the tech finally came to collect us and brought us up to the pediatric sleep center. On the way up she asked me if my son would need a crib or if he could handle sleeping in a regular hospital bed with the little quarter side rail up. I have to be honest this was a bit disheartening and I was disappointed that they assumed that my son could handle a big bed. He is only a year old and very restless. He also stands up the minute that he wakes up and I was nervous enough without adding a fear of him falling out of the bed. I was told that they could swap the bed out for a crib but it would take some time. In the meantime, I was instructed to sit on the parent bed (which was not very comfortable for the record) and start filling out paperwork while keeping my son entertained. The room was so small that I could barely fit my stroller in the room in front of the two beds. My son of course was not going to allow me to fill out any paperwork. But the tech assured me that I had all night to complete it.
By the time that the crib was located, the bed switched out, and the tech was ready to start attaching the monitors to my son it was around 8:30 pm. The process of attaching all of the wires and monitors took around an hour or so. My son was not pleased to say the least. I was concerned that he would just pull them all right off but thankfully, being a pediatric sleep unit, the tech knew how to deal with infants and basically wrapped him in layers of tape to keep everything in place and relatively baby proof. I have to admit that my son did not look very comfortable. He cried through much of the attaching process despite my efforts to distract him by calling daddy, playing music, playing Youtube videos, playing Cocomelon on Netflix, and finally playing videos on my phone of his older brother. It was stressful and I definitely felt anxious despite trying to keep my emotions under control to avoid further upsetting my son. Thankfully the tech was pretty calm and sang right along with the kid’s songs I was playing. I really appreciated her good humor.
Of course by the time my son was all ready for “bed” he was all in a tizzy and not actually ready for sleep at all. My son generally nurses to sleep and I asked the tech if that was allowed. She assured me that I could nurse him whenever and however I needed to and that she would try to turn the camera away if she noticed me doing so. I honestly didn’t care if she watched me nurse him… but it did feel a little awkward to know that we were being watched the whole time. I guess that must be how my kids feel when I use the baby monitor to see what they are doing – haha. The tech found a chair for me to put next to the bed since the wires attached to my son could not reach to my bed. Unfortunately, it was an uncomfortable desk chair that wasn’t in the best shape and honestly it barely fit between our beds. Definitely not ideal but I tried to make the best of it. I had foolishly expected there to be a rocking chair in the room like almost all of the other pediatric units we have visited and I figured that they would give me a blanket but the room was freezing and all I had was a super thin sheet and blanket that wasn’t much better. I was thankful I had grabbed a fluffy sweatshirt on my way out the door and ended up wearing it most of the night. Even so I was still cold but I suppose I get cold easily. Nonetheless, I finally was able to get my son into a deep enough sleep that I was able to transfer him into the crib. Then, I set to work on the paperwork that was handed to me upon arrival. It was several pages of documents to sign and questions about my son. Twice my son woke up and needed to be nursed back to sleep while I was working on the paperwork.
By the time that I finally finished filling everything out I was exhausted from the whole ordeal. I slipped out of my son’s room and used the restroom across the hall to change into some sweatpants to sleep in and then decided that I better try to get myself to sleep. I was informed that “wake up” was at 6 am. My son doesn’t normally get to bed until 12:30/1 am – it’s just his schedule no matter how hard we try and because of that, he is not an early riser – and neither am I. I was NOT looking forward to 6 am in any shape or form and to be honest I was worried about the study having enough data since my son did not fall asleep earlier. I myself struggled to fall asleep between being uncomfortable, worried, freezing, and trying to sleep wearing my mask. I was told to leave it on and I wasn’t sure if that included sleeping because the tech told me that she would need to come in periodically to adjust things. Just as I drifted off the tech came in to do just that and promptly woke my son up unintentionally and I had to start the whole process over.
Needless to say, it was a long night and my son ended up waking up on his own at 5:50 am which is unusual since he normally sleeps through the night and does NOT wake up early. At least he didn’t have to be awoken from a sound sleep. It took about 2 hours for the tech to remove all of the tape and wires and for me to do the best I could to wash the glue out of my son’s baby hair with a washcloth. He was given a pretty cool sensory toy as a reward for being a trooper which was a nice touch from the staff. The poor kid deserved it. I wish I could say that we headed home at that point but unfortunately we had another appointment at the hospital at 12 and I was not about to make the drive back and forth so I headed to the hospital cafeteria to find some breakfast.
I wondered to myself how the study had gone. My son did not snore AT ALL which is ironic since he normally snores like a grizzly bear and he had slept on his back the whole time whereas at home he sleeps on his belly. I’m still waiting to hear back about the results but my fingers are crossed that they saw some of the things we see on a nightly basis. The next morning, my son woke up at home with a red rash covering his face and body. I found out that this was likely a reaction to the “detachall” that the tech had used to make it easier and less painful on my son’s skin to remove all of the tape. Apparently, my son’s skin was supposed to have been washed immediately after but wasn’t. I felt so bad for him but luckily he didn’t seem all that bothered by it and it went away in a couple of days.
So, what tips would I offer someone who needed to take their child for a sleep study? First, read this blog post so that you have a realistic idea of what to expect. The video on the hospital’s website made the process seem much different and a lot more glamourous. Secondly, I’d recommend bringing a blanket with you for yourself because hospitals are freezing and they may not give you one. Don’t bother lugging the snacks or reading material. You likely won’t have a minute to use them. Also don’t bother bringing shampoo or expect to take a shower. That wasn’t even offered to me but at least I was able to brush my teeth and throw on clean clothes. I’d recommend showering before going to the hospital so you don’t feel totally gross the next morning if possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for a crib if the room isn’t set up with one. Your child’s safety is important and you do not need to worry about your child falling out of bed on top of everything else. You probably won’t get a lot of sleep during the sleep study but hopefully the lab gets enough data to help your child. Hang in there mama. You Got This. One day, one hour, at a time. <3