Sleep Study: Our experience and lessons learned

Nicholas’s sleep study was last weekend. It was a comfortable and restful evening away for the both of us.

Just kidding…

I’m so exhausted from it that I almost decided to forego the blog post about it, but there were so many things that I would’ve done differently and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t pass it along to all of you!

A sleep study is when a person is hooked up to a bunch of monitors so that data can be collected about how that person’s body functions while they sleep.

This allows doctors to check for sleep disorders like sleep apnea and an array of other things.

Nicholas is a great sleeper which is why I almost cancelled the whole thing. When he isn’t sick, his snoring and brething interruptions are minimal. But, my doctor urged me to get a baseline study so that we could analyze Nicholas’s sleep patterns in the future.

My happy guy before he realized this was less of a sleepover and more of an appointment

Let me set the scene.

As you know, I am a prep person. I like to be as prepared for any situation as I possibly can be. If I have an event coming up, it’s likely that I’ve already written three lists about it. So, to prepare for the study, I watched the video that the sleep study center has available online.

Here’s a link to the website!

After watching, I had to fight the urge to cancel all over again.

Then, I spoke to the woman on the phone who’d called to confirm my appointment, and she eased my mind. I also made the decision to lower my expectations. If it went badly, it was no big deal. So, we went for it.

The build up.

I talked to Nicholas for a few days about how we were going on a fun trip just for the two of us. We took the hour-long drive early so that we could go out to dinner and then do some shopping at Target.

We had dinner at Denny’s. I’d hoped that it would be relatively empty, with the only customers being older folks.

Denny’s turned out to be the perfect place.

The staff and customers loved watching Nicholas decide that he was the mayor of the restaurant, they were patient when he spilled his milk everywhere, and they all insisted we said goodbye before we left.

At Target, we picked out a new Raya and the Last Dragon blanket to go with the movie that we brought. I kept telling him that we needed something super cozy for our sleepover.

When we got there, the room looked like a mix between a hotel room and a hospital room.

Nicholas seemed super confused but still excited since I kept telling him that we were going to watch his favorite movie.

It was nearing his bedtime, and if you know Nicholas, he doesn’t like to miss bedtime. I pulled into the sleep study center praying that he didn’t turn on me out of sheer exhaustion.

The Process.

We were shown to our room left to get settled. I changed Nicholas into his jammies and put the movie on first thing. I had to make sure he knew that at least something a little fun was going to happen while they started the process.

Hooking Nicholas up to all of the machines took between 40-60 minutes. At first, he was squirming all over the place. After a while, he succumbed to watching his movie while ignoring what was going on. When we were finished, he looked like this:

The sensor on his face is in place of one of those tube things that go in people’s nostrils when they are receiving oxygen treatments. Later in the night, the nurse had to tape that one to his face.

I know what you’re thinking: How could anyone get a good night’s sleep all taped up like that?

I was thinking the same thing. He definitely didn’t get the sleep he probably normally gets, but the nurse assured us that the data would still be useable information for the doctor.

Here he is right after he fell asleep the first time:

“I’m not mad, but impressed,” said the nurse after a few hours had passed. He hadn’t seen anyone that tangled up in his 11 years of experience.

This is his favorite sleep position, and I was happy to see that he figured out how to do it with all of the wires.

We were awoken at 5:45 am to be disconnected from the machines. Nicholas was so happy to be leaving that he was laughing deliriously. On the walk to the car, he was jumping over the lines on the sidewalk, happy as could be.

I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home to grab a coffee for me and a donut for Nicholas. That was the least that I could do for the poor kid.

Once I showered and napped, I jotted down a few ways that I could have better prepared for the next study.

Here are some tips that I came up with:

You don’t need all of the toiletries you think you need.

I really didn’t want to be that mom who came through the doors with a massive roller suitcase. So, I was trying to pack as light as possible. I arrived wearing leggings and a t-shirt that I knew I could both go to target in and fall asleep at the center in.

I had these ideas that it would be like staying in a hotel, where I could wash my face and get ready for bed in the bathroom while Nicholas watched his movie.

In reality, I had to be right next to Nicholas the whole time. We arrived at 8:00 and were awoken to leave at 5:45, so there was no time for anything like that.

I basically just brought those toiletries on a field trip…

We also left in the same clothes we slept in, which means that I also packed some unnecessary outfits. The point is this: the whole thing is about sleep, so you really don’t need to pack anything for awake time, especially if you’re going right home after.

I would strictly bring anything your child needs to fall asleep, such as a certain blanket or book.

Get your child’s haircut beforehand.

Especially if the child, like Nicholas, has sensory difficulties when anything is touching his or her hair.

You see, Nicholas was due for a haircut, but I absolutely hate when we have to do it. Nicholas cries and is so uncomfortable. However, to attach the sensors to his head, the nurse had to use this water-soluble paste, dunk the sensor in it and attach it to his head. The consistency of it reminded me of a mixture between hot glue and the wax from those wax bottle candies.

My tired buddy at 6:00am elated that we are going home and showing off his head full of paste.

Use a warm wet washcloth to get the paste off.

The instructional video that we watched prior to attending depicted a mother dabbing her daughters hair with a washcloth to get the paste out. Let me tell you that it takes a whole lot more than that. I plopped him right in the bathtub.

Dumping water over his head over and over while trying to pick the big chunks out was uncomfortable for us both. Instead, I soaked a washcloth in the bathwater and laid it over his head. Then, I put both of my hands flat over them and rubbed the cloth in circular motions.

After that, the paste was off in no time.

Also, the nurse said that some conditioner would help afterward, and he was totally right.

Consider a few important things before deciding to sleep in the bed your child is sleeping in.

I slept in the big bed with Nicholas and I am grateful that I did. At one point in the night, I grabbed him before he fell over the rail. As I laid there pondering what I would write about, I realized that decision wasn’t all good.

Here were the pros and cons:


  1. I was able to be there immediately when he woke up scared. At some points, he would sit up and be completely blindfolded by gauze, I was immediately able to lay him back down and comfort him.
  2. I could untangle any cords that seemed easy to fix while he was sleeping, or move them around to avoid a worse tangle.
  3. If I had fallen asleep, his movements woke me up to help with the above two things.


  1. There were a few moments when I think my movements woke him up.
  2. My presence in the bed made it so that he couldn’t move as freely as he would have. The study wanted to see an accurate depiction of how he slept. Of course, the cords get in the way of that, but I feel like I did too.

Even though I think I would still sleep in the bed with Nicholas if we were to do a repeat test, I know that if he were a little older I’d sleep in the other bed.

Bring your own pillows and expect to not sleep.

Meaning, don’t schedule this on a work/school night. If you do get some sleep, great! But plan for the worst.

We did ours on a Saturday. On Sunday, my husband took both kids to his parents house for Sunday dinner so that I could get some rest, which I really needed.

The rooms had those same crinkly pillows that hospitals have They weren’t necessarily too uncomfortable, but in my efforts to stay quiet so that Nicholas could sleep, it seemed like a thunderclap every time I made the slightest move.

we will get our results in one to two weeks, and I’ll keep you all posted!

I hope this post helps you prepare for your child’s sleep study! If you have any advice for parents from your own experience, please leave it in the comments below!

As soon as the school year is over, I will be able to share more about the book. Cover reveal coming soon! Subscribe to this blog to make sure you get all of our updates!

Thank you all for your support!

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I was shocked as a new mom to find out that my son has Down Syndrome. I had no idea that my life would be changed for the better! Now, I am using my passion for writing to spread awareness and acceptance for people with Down syndrome.

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