22 answers

3 Year Old in a Sleep Study

Our 3 year old son has not had a full night's sleep in well over a month. He sleeps from about 7:30 to 1 and then wakes up again at 3:30 and 6. He is not napping and has been super hyperactive. I feel as if his hyperactivity is due to his slick of sleep. His ped thinks we should do a sleep study because we don't know why he issn't sleeping though the night all of a sudden. My husband and I are apprehensive because if he isns't sleeping well here what makes them think he'll sleep well in a different bed hooked up to machines??? Has anyone else had this issue? I don't mind that I am not sleeping, I am worried that he is missing out on that deep REM sleep and that it could beging to wear on his physical and emotional health.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hello K.,
My daughter didn't sleep through the night until she was 5yrs od. She is now 7 and always sleeps through the night(from 8:30p-7-30a) I think all children sleep diffrantly. My pediatrition said as long as she goes back to sleep it is not an issue. If you don't mind the lack of sleep then its OK.
K.

Hi K.,

It does sound like unusual behavior for a three year old. You don't say what he is like when he wakes and how long he stays up, but you could possibly do a little detective work. Is there anything new in his life? You are a teacher. Did you just go back after the summer break? Was he used to staying up much later and now he has not adjusted to the new routine?

Is he in a new childcare setting? Is he taking long naps? I know you probably have asked these questions already, but, I believe there is always a reason for a behavior, we just have to discover it.

If you are unable to resolve the issue and his behavior continues, I can't see what harm a sleep study could do. These people are experts, they know he will not sleep well in an unfamiliar environment. They likely have strategies to deal with that. It's pretty nonevasive and it might yield some answers. Best Wishes.

J. L.

More Answers

I am sorry to hear your poor little man is not sleeping well & may have to have a sleep study. I also feel he is hyper due to being over tired (lack of sleep). My son gets very silly & hyper when he does not get enough sleep as well.
I agree with the fact that he may not sleep well with machines hooked up to him. But I would talk to the sleep study people about that & see what they say. Maybe they can find out what's up without him really sleeping or sleeping well?
Has anything different changed in his life at all to make him not sleep well? Anything in daycare/preschool, your marriage, his sister? Anything you can think of? Did his bedtime/nap schedule change at all in the past? I find when my sons sleep schedule gets shifted at all it messes everything up & it takes a day or two to get him back on a better schedule.
I think I would try buying a book about children & sleeping first, talk to the sleep study person & maybe get a 2nd opinion from another pediatrician before having the study done. Sorry but I don't know what else to say & I feel bad for your situation. A book I can suggest is called Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weisbluth, MD worked great for my son but he was younger (6 months & 1 yr) when we used it!

My daughter had a sleep study when she was 4 and I had one over the summer and we both ended up sleeping. By the time they got my daughter all hooked up, it was bedtime and she was tired. They seemed very experienced about getting a child to cooperate (and let's just say cooperation is not one of my daughter's strengths...) and were willing to go through lots of extra sticky thingies for her to put on herself in random places and on her stuffed animal. They were also very patient about readjusting anything that was bothering her or that came off during the night. When I had my own sleep study done recently, I realized that it's not obstructive. Foreign, yes, but it did not inhibit my sleeping. I was able to move, toss and turn, etc. so I felt better about putting my daughter through it. They measure everything and are able to tell if you're asleep or not, what stage of sleep etc. and weigh all the data against how long you've been asleep in that stage. So basically, the data should be relevant and useful in assessing your son, even if his sleep doesn't exactly replicate his sleep, or lack thereof, at home. Best of luck to you!

I participated in a sleep study but I was an adult. I think that you'd be surprised how much people sleep in the lab - I didn't think I would either, and the technician told me that everyone feels that way. But because we are all sleep deprived, we DO fall asleep. They don't expect him to sleep well there when he doesn't sleep well at home - they want to know for sure how well he ISN'T sleeping. The advantage is that the electrodes and read-outs will tell you/them WHY he's not sleeping, and what's going on at the time he wakes up. Obviously your three year old will not be able to do the survey that adults did - but when they asked me the next morning how many times I thought I woke up, I said 3. Two on my own and 1 with the technician in there adjusting a wire. Guess what? I actually woke up 130 times!!! I definitely had a sleep issue! It had nothing to do with being in a strange place - it was neurological. I learned a lot, and a treatment plan was decided upon. Being without REM sleep is awful, and it's not safe. I should not have been behind the wheel of a car, but I didn't know it. Lack of sleep is serious.

If you go forward with the study, you can make a game out of the electrodes with your son - beforehand, read some books about astronauts or robots, then say you are pretending to be a robot that night. R2D2 or whatever piques his curiousity! Nothing hurts, and it's very interesting getting all hooked up. I assume they will allow you or your husband to sleep overnight in the same room - my room had an extra bed in it for that purpose. I'm sure the technicians have special things they do for kids to make it fun and not scary at all. My room had a bathroom and a shower, so maybe you can tell him it's a hotel or something else fun. I'm sure you can take some of his things too - stuffed animal, special blanket, maybe a CD player, books - whatever his bedtime routine is, and whatever comforts him and makes him feel "at home"! I don't know what the room will look like where you are, but my set-up was very non-medical looking. The electrodes were stuck onto my head, with one or two on my chese and one on my leg. Everything connecting to a small device that looked a lot like a TV remote. All of the other equipment is elsewhere, in another room, out of view.

Above the bed is a darkened window in the ceiling, kind of like those cars with dark windows - you can't see in but you can see out. There was a camera up above that allowed the staff to monitor my movements, but I couldn't see anything. They didn't turn the camera on until I told them I was going to bed, so it's not like anyone was watching me get undressed or anything. I don't think they actually watched me all night but I think they tape it. Maybe they look in now and then especially if they get a reading from an electrode that indicates that something is off or disconnected - I don't know but you could ask. That was it for the room - it was kind of sparse looking but there was nothing scary looking - not hospital-y at all. Maybe you can get a quick tour of the sleep center beforehand just to answer your questions and calm your fears, and that will transfer as calm to your child.

Definitely get good info from the doctor - if you're not comfortable, or even if you are - get an opinion from a pediatric neurologist. Don't worry about insulting your pediatrician by asking for a consultation - they are NOT insulted in general, and if they are, it's time for a new pediatrician. The results of the tests must absolutely be interpreted by a pedi neuro.

Since it's only been going on for a month, there's probably no immediate threat of damage being done, so I would think you would have time to make an appointment with a pedi neuro for a pre-sleep-study consultation if you want one. Then you can decide on the sleep study.

I think the hyperactivity connection is something they need to evaluate too. One could be causing the other, but right now it's "chicken and the egg" - hard to know which one comes first. You could also ask what happens if he goes to bed at 7:30 and wakes up at 3, but then can't get back to sleep with all the equipment - they may tell you that they have enough info by then on what was going on.

Good luck!

Has anyone considered nightmares? Just a thought. Good luck.

Hi K.,
I certainly don't know more than your ped, but I have a similar issue as you so maybe sharing my experiences will help somewhat, I hope. I, too, am a math teacher and I have two girls, ages 5 and almost 2. I have found that going back to work this year, after being home with the kids all summer, has very much disrupted my younger child's sleep, and as a result, affected behavior as well. I feel very strongly that it is not a matter of a physical issue or something of the sort, but rather that it's a huge period of re-adjustment for her, and it is presenting in her sleep. She can't verbalize it, but this adjustment is taking a toll, even though she's happy as a clam with the sitter. Another piece of info - my older daughter had a sleep study for different reasons (not all night) and it was a disaster. She was three at the time, and everything that you said about your concerns was true. She was hooked up to machines, etc. and it was awful. I would say to maybe give it a little more time for your son to adjust to a new routine and see if anything changes. That being said, if you worked during the summer and it really isn't a new routine for him, ignore my thoughts! Good luck!

Hello K.,
My daughter didn't sleep through the night until she was 5yrs od. She is now 7 and always sleeps through the night(from 8:30p-7-30a) I think all children sleep diffrantly. My pediatrition said as long as she goes back to sleep it is not an issue. If you don't mind the lack of sleep then its OK.
K.

Dear K.,
I did not read all the other responses yet, because I am eager to assure you that it is a totally normal behavior of a 2-3-or even a 4-year old. My daughter is a bit over 3 years old now and is going through exactly the same. Kids at this age have wild imaginations and dreams that they take as real things. There is no point explaining that "it's just a dream" because they do not understand it yet. Also, kids at this age need less sleep than they needed before. May be you can try putting him to bed a little later after having a nice bath with some lavender soap. My daughter does not nap when she is at home with us and she does not seam to need it. However, she naps at her school, because most children there do. There is no way I can put her to sleep before 9:00-9:30pm, because she is just not sleepy. And if I do, she is more likely to wake up at night. After about 2 months of this (she has been waking up and asking me to be with her anywhere from 1-5 times every night), it is slowly getting better, and we have some nights when she sleeps all the way through. Sometimes it is obvious that she is having a dream and cannot get rid of it. Hang in there, it will go away like everything else and there will be something else in place. I don't think he needs a sleep study just yet. You said that it's been just a month. Give hime more time and it might go away on its own. Good luck!

Hi K.,
I can understand that you are apprehensive. He may not sleep well during the sleep study, but the point is to watch him and see what is causing him to wake up, if anything. He will be well monitored, they have a video set up and he will be hooked up to a heart monitor and something to monitor his oxygenation. This test will be for information gathering. Then they can look at the results and see if there is anything abnormal. Usually you can stay with him in the room too.
I haven't had one done for my son. But, we went through a long period of night waking with him. I wish I had had it done. I think that it will tell alot about how he is doing at night. Hope this helps.......
M.

Listen to your gut, Mama. I would think that the sleep study would be traumatic for your son. I suspect you have good insurance and this why your ped is so willing to go this route. Children do go through times when they don't sleep well and usually it is because something in their routine has changed, or they have reached a developmental milestone. Is he upset that you have recently returned to work after a summer of being home? Has his sister just started walking and maybe is into his stuff more? Did he change daycares or start a preschool?

I would make sure that he is eating the best whole food diet possible and getting plenty of physical exercise during the day. St. John's Wort flower essence can help with sleep issues and is non-toxic. It helps people make smooth transitions from one state of sleep to another. A few drops of Lavender or Ylang Ylang essential oil placed on his favorite "lovey" can also help him to sleep soundly. Love him up and watch for any other clues. It's highly likely that this will resolve shortly without taking him into a scary sleep clinic.

Hi K.. My now 2yr old has been having sleep studies on and off his whole life due to medical issues. He is not a very good sleeper at all either. They know that kids this age don't sleep like they do at home but they do get the information they need somehow. The first time we had to do an "outside" (the hospital) study, he slept for maybe a total of 3hrs and that wasn't even straight thru. They managed to get the information they needed. We are going again next week for what I believe is his 6th study. You stay with your son all night, can even sleep in the same bed if you want (it helps my son sleep better). They use some kind of stuff to make the wires stick to his head and a belt to put wires around his chest. The worst part is the nasal canula. Most kids hate that. It is a little scary for them, but kids are resilliant and he'll be just fine. Explain ahead of time what is going to happen so he'll understand a little better. Good luck!

I haven't read the other responses yet, but I just wanted to say that you don't have to put him in a research study like that to get answers. Children's Hospital has a sleep division that works on helping children and families get into good sleep patterns. There is a research division, but I think it might be helpful to talk to an expert about what's going on to see if there might be a medical reason for him not sleeping, or if there is something environmental. And of course they specialize in small children, so I imagine they have realistic expectations on what kind of tests a 3 year old can handle. I have no idea if this type of thing is covered by insurance, but it's something you could look into. Good luck!

my son had a sleep study due to tonsils/adnoids. It was hard & he only slept maybe 3-4 hours but they got plenty of data in that short time. He didn't like being hooked up but we said they were making him a robot & really played that up. In the end it was for the best, he was stopping breathing 6x per hour!! Good luck

K.,

My son had a sleep study (two, actually) to diagnose extreme sleepiness. He ended up with a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, and boy am I glad we did the study!

The way to think about it is not as a test to see if your son will sleep better with wires hooked up, but to determine what his sleep pattern is really like. Those studies are amazing - they monitor heartrate, brainwaives, dreaming, etc., and your results will be comprehensive to say the least. I know it seems impossible to imagine, but kids can actually sleep with all of that stuff attached!

I think you'll find the study worthwhile. Best of luck to you and your boy. Keep us posted.

Hi K.,

It does sound like unusual behavior for a three year old. You don't say what he is like when he wakes and how long he stays up, but you could possibly do a little detective work. Is there anything new in his life? You are a teacher. Did you just go back after the summer break? Was he used to staying up much later and now he has not adjusted to the new routine?

Is he in a new childcare setting? Is he taking long naps? I know you probably have asked these questions already, but, I believe there is always a reason for a behavior, we just have to discover it.

If you are unable to resolve the issue and his behavior continues, I can't see what harm a sleep study could do. These people are experts, they know he will not sleep well in an unfamiliar environment. They likely have strategies to deal with that. It's pretty nonevasive and it might yield some answers. Best Wishes.

J. L.

That is interesting that he is consistent in waking up at the same intervals each night/morning. Even though he won't nap during the day, could he go down for some quiet time in the afternoon? Is there anything that changed in his health, environment or habits in the month before all of this started? New paint, mold, new mattress? Could it be a food sensitivity? (food coloring- especially yellow #5 or red dye), sugar, caffeine (from chocolate?), dairy/soy, maple syrup, or bananas? I know that kids can have reactions to these things, even after they have been eating them for a long time. Anything that he loves to eat ALL the time? Just some thoughts. I hope it passes soon and he's back to his old routine again.

The sleep study could get to the bottom of the problem or at least rule out other possiblities...........in the meantime, you could play detective and try to uncover anything, that may be disrupting your son and his ability to sleep well. Others mentioned sensitivities to foods/dye, etc. You could try before bedtime an Epsom salt bath, which has a calming effect for people, especially for hyperactivity. Nothing to lose, even before his sleep clinic appt. if you go that route. Try 1 cup of salt in very warm water dissolved, make sure the tub is filled to his waist and then spend 20 minutes. Good luck!

Hi K., i dont have much insight on this, but if you & your husband are skeptical about it, dont do it. The one thing i've learned is to always listen to your "little voice". You're his parents & know whats right for him.

Hi K.-
As an adult I have been through a couple sleep studies. The process is painless. Being all hooked up doesn't really allow for the best night sleep but I think the doctors will be able to pick up any abnormalities and the pattern of sleep as long as there is some sleep.
Good luck!!
K.

K.,

I have a friend who did the sleep study. The machines will tell them what is going on with your son. You want him to wake up while there so they can diagnose what is making him wake. My sister also has a soon to be one year old son, who also will be attending a sleep clinic after his first birthday. We are hoping she will also have good results.

Best of luck,

B.

I sent you a message!!

Long story short, I also have a son who just turned 4, but after undergoing an overnight at a sleep clinic was determined to have childhood insomnia- trouble falling asleep, very restless sleep, wakes often, etc. We were able to rule everything else out (seizures during sleep, sleep apnea, etc)and prior to the overnight had been in a consistant routine where we tried everything- night time baths, stories, eliminating certain foods- you name it!!

After doing LOTS of online research and discussing it with his pediatrician I decided to put him on 3mg of melatonin each night before bed. Again, please talk to your pedi's and do your research, but for us, it has been a miracle for him! The results were immediate and dramatic. What use to take 2-3 hours for him to fall asleep now takes 25 minutes. He actually wakes up happy- not groggy, tired, or "drugged" and his behavior during the day has improved dramatically!!! We have tried going nights without it, as I am not a fan of kids on pills, but after struggling for a couple of hours he will ultimately ask for his "sleepy medicine". Even he knows that it helps him to rest better and enables him to have much happier days. I will continue to occasionally try him off the melatonin to see if at some point he falls into a more natural sleep pattern, but for now this has been the one thing to work!

Hi K.,
do the sleep study!! The idea isn't that he will sleep well someplace else, it is that he will have his typical sleep and the Dr's will be able to help you figure out why he is not sleeping, and help you help him to sleep better!!!

From everything I have read, lack of sleep can cause all types of problems, including hyperactivity. (Also can impact learning and the formation of long term memory).

Do the sleep study - get your little one the help he needs!
Good Luck!
E.

K.,
If you do the sleep study at Boston your son will have a cap on holding on about 20 electrods. The sleep study will show what is waking him up if it is medical. My son had reflux(and still does)and that was waking him. I had no idea now he sleeps great. Bring a movie or if you play music at bed bring the cd. I brought my sons favorite blanket and music cd good night micky. L.

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