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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Diagnosis & Treatment of Pediatric Sleep Disorders

University of Chicago pediatric sleep medicine experts offer the full range of diagnostic and treatment services to children of all ages with sleep disorders. We provide care in outpatient clinics as well as in state-of-the-art sleep labs that are fully equipped for comprehensive overnight sleep studies.

Diagnosis of Pediatric Sleep Disorders

Evaluation and treatment for pediatric sleep disorders begins in our outpatient pediatric sleep medicine clinics.

Outpatient Pediatric Sleep Medicine Clinic

Parents/caretakers of children who need a sleep evaluation may be required to complete a sleep questionnaire and a two-week sleep diary (PDF). This information will help the sleep medicine physician better understand your child’s sleep problems prior to the sleep clinic visit.

During a clinic visit, a board-certified pediatric sleep medicine specialist will obtain additional necessary information from the parents about the child's sleep problem and will conduct a thorough physical examination of the child. If necessary, additional blood tests may be performed, particularly for overweight and obese children. These tests measure fasting blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. If it's determined that an overnight sleep study (polysonomogram) is required, our team will work with parents/caretakers to schedule a convenient time for the study to take place at one of our sleep laboratories.

Overnight Sleep Studies & Sleep Laboratories 

Often, the best way to diagnose a sleep disorder is to observe a child while they're sleeping and to record several measures that can help pinpoint the cause of a sleep problem. University of Chicago pediatric sleep medicine experts oversee sleep medicine laboratories and provide expert interpretation of sleep studies. 

Learn more about what your child can expect during an overnight sleep study.

Our comfortable, child-friendly sleep labs are equipped with the latest technology and are staffed by certified sleep technologists. Types of sleep studies offered include the following:

Overnight Sleep Study (Polysomnogram): 

During a routine overnight sleep study, data are gathered from multiple tests to be analyzed together to determine a proper diagnosis. Electrodes are attached to the surface of the child's skin and connected back to machines to record data for the following tests:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor brain activity and aid in diagnosis of possible seizure disorders
  • Electroculogram (EOG) to record eye movements and determine when REM sleep occurs
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to monitor electrical activity of the heart
  • Electromyogram (EMG) to measure muscle tension and to aid in the diagnosis of limb movement disorders

Additional body sensors will be placed to assess breathing and respiratory functions. We also perform pulse oximetry to measure blood oxygen levels. A video camera will record the study as well. A sleep technologist is always nearby throughout the study.

Multiple Sleep Latency Testing (MSLT): 

Multiple sleep latency testing is a special type of sleep study that is performed during the day to examine reasons for excessive daytime sleepiness. The test also is used to determine if current treatments for sleep breathing disorders are working. Most of the same measures recorded for an overnight sleep study are taken during an MSLT. During the test, the child naps for a period of time and is awoken at periodic intervals. MSLT for children is best conducted in a sleep lab experienced in conducting pediatric sleep studies.

Additional Sleep Tests for Children with Complex Needs:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) titration studies for children with sleep apnea
  • Ventilator titration studies for children who rely on ventilators to breathe
  • Studies for children who have tracheostomies, such as for severe sleep apnea or following surgery
  • Oxygen titration studies for patients with severe lung disease
  • Specialized tests to monitor seizure disorders (epilepsy)
  • Studies to evaluate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) during sleep

Sleep Research Studies

University of Chicago pediatric sleep scientists are conducting a variety of clinical research studies. Current patients and children who are not currently under care by one of our sleep specialists may enroll in these studies. For more information about the type of sleep research under way here, visit our research page.

Treatment for Pediatric Sleep Disorders

Treatment is tailored to your child's particular sleep disorder. Types of treatments offered through our program include the following, and more:

  • Recommendations for proven methods and routines to help your child fall asleep and stay asleep, such as:
    • Behavioral treatments that address ways to reinforce good sleep habits
    • Techniques to calm children who suffer from sleep-related anxiety or night terrors/nightmares
    • Adjustments to sleep and feeding schedules
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP therapy involves the use of a machine and a special mask that delivers air to ensure unobstructed breathing during sleep. Our team is highly skilled in helping children acclimate to using the CPAP machine at home.
  • Medications, if necessary, for children with complex medical problems. These medicines can help restore more normal sleep patterns, helping your child go to sleep or wake properly
  • Referrals to other pediatric specialists who can provide expert care for conditions that disrupt sleep.These conditions include obesity, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), developmental disorders, epilepsy/seizure disorders, respiratory conditions, craniofacial disorders, and neuromuscular diseases. Many children can be helped with surgical treatments, such as tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or maxillofacial surgery.

    Our pediatric sleep medicine physicians work closely with other University of Chicago pediatric specialists, including pulmonologists, otolaryngologists (ENT surgeons), developmental experts, gastroenterologists, neurologists, craniofacial surgeons, psychologists, and psychiatrists.