Every cell in the human body relies on sleep in order to properly function. Poor sleep could harm a child’s growth, development and overall wellbeing.

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University of Missouri Health Care’s Children’s Hospital has a team of world-renowned sleep physicians and researchers. We use leading-edge technology, tactics and facilities to diagnose and treat sleep disorders in children of all ages. Our innovative pediatric sleep medicine research drives the field forward. We are investigating why and how sleep conditions occur, and we are searching for new ways to detect and treat these issues.

Chronic insufficient sleep or untreated sleep disorders could result in a variety of long-term behavioral and health problems, including ADHD, learning challenges, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Some of these conditions do not become apparent until adulthood, making it especially important to catch and treat sleep issues in children as early as possible.

Typical symptoms of a sleep disorder include:

  • Snoring (a potential sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which can be related to enlarged tonsils or nasal obstructions)
  • Bed-wetting
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Sleepwalking
  • Unwilling or unable to fall asleep at night (potentially insomnia)
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Excessive sleepiness throughout the day (potentially narcolepsy)
  • Fussy and disruptive behavior
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Poor school performance
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

Speak with your child’s primary care provider if you notice any of these symptoms, and he or she can refer you to our clinic for a consultation.

We also welcome children with sleep conditions that complicate other ongoing medical disorders, including epilepsy, autism, obesity, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), craniofacial disorders and neuromuscular disorders. We are happy to collaborate with your child's other doctors to ensure seamless, comprehensive care.

Diagnosing a Pediatric Sleep Condition

Your child’s first appointment with our pediatric sleep specialists will take place in MU Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric and Adolescent Specialty Clinic. During this visit, a doctor will gather your child’s medical history, ask about his or her sleep habits and conduct a thorough physical examination. He or she could also order blood tests to measure your child’s blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

After analyzing the results, your doctor might suggest bringing your child in for a sleep study, which would occur in MU Children’s Hospital’s state-of-the-art, kid-friendly sleep laboratory. There is enough room inside our lab for parents to sleep beside their children, and a sleep technologist is always nearby to answer any questions and ensure you and your child are comfortable.

We perform two different types of sleep studies in our lab.

Overnight Sleep Study (Polysomnogram)


During a polysomnogram, we place small sensors on the surface of your child’s skin before he or she goes to sleep, and we monitor his or her brain activity, breathing, eye moments, heartbeat, muscle tension and blood oxygen levels throughout the night. This data ultimately helps us determine a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.  

Multiple Sleep Latency Testing (MSLT)


MSLT is performed during the day to determine the source of excessive daytime sleepiness. Similar to the polysomnogram, we place sensors on your child’s skin to study his or her brain activity, breathing, eye moments, heartbeat, muscle tension and blood oxygen levels during sleep. However, instead of allowing your child to sleep uninterrupted, we will wake him or her up periodically throughout the several-hour test.

MSLT can also be used to assess whether ongoing treatments for sleep breathing disorders are working.

Treatment and Management

After diagnosing your child, your pediatric sleep specialist will tailor a treatment plan to his or her specific needs. This could include:

  • Behavioral strategies and routines to promote healthy sleep.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Medications to promote normal sleep patterns.
  • Referrals to other pediatric specialists or surgeons for follow-up care. We work closely with our pediatric ear, nose and throat experts for routine surgery, such as removing tonsils, nasal obstructions or voice box issues.