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Recognizing sleep disorders

Nearly 70 percent of children ages 10 and under suffer sleep problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation. These troubles can lead to daytime sleepiness and may even raise the risk of learning problems and attention deficit disorder. Some common disorders include:

  1. Insomnia: More than 40 percent of kids experience trouble falling or staying asleep, poor-quality sleep or early-morning awakenings, according to one survey.
    How to help: A bedtime routine can help. Teach your child to fall asleep alone so he or she doesn’t need help to fall back asleep in the middle of the night.
  2. Snoring, sleep apnea: Nearly 20 percent of kids snore. Enlarged tonsils may be to blame, but snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition in which breathing is disrupted. Sufferers often awaken, gasping for air.
    How to help: If you suspect sleep apnea, tell your pediatrician; he or she can arrange for an overnight sleep study to properly diagnose and treat your child.
  3. Night terrors: If your child wakes up crying, let him or her tell you about the dream. During a sleep terror, your child may not fully awaken and may scream uncontrollably, despite your comforting gestures. He or she won’t remember the incident in the morning.
    How to help: Limit stress, irregular bedtimes and sleep deprivation, since they can increase the likelihood of sleep terrors.
  4. Sleepwalking: Most juvenile sleepwalkers are between ages 3 and 7, and the condition sometimes runs in families.
    How to help: Make sure your home is safe (no unguarded stairwells or toys to trip over) and gently guide the walker back into bed. Talk to your pediatrician, because sleepwalking can indicate sleep apnea.
  5. Bedwetting: Some children have delayed development of the ability to wake up when their bladder feels full. Kids should outgrow the problem by adolescence.
    How to help: Limit drinks before bedtime and insist on a bathroom visit before getting under the covers. Don’t punish your child for a situation he or she can’t control.