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Your Child Can’t Sleep?

Put bedtime bugaboos―and your kids―to rest with these expert solutions.

By Teri Cettina
Girl looking under her bedLiz Banfield

Problem: Your child has night terrors.

Why it happens: Your child is overtired.

How to rest easy: Well, as easy as you can while your sleeping child yells with her eyes open! Don’t worry: As scary as these episodes are for you, she won’t remember them. “Often your child will get agitated if you touch her, so just stand silently in her room to make sure she’s safe,” says Mindell. Most episodes are over in less than 20 minutes, and kids usually outgrow them by age six.


Problem: Your preschooler wets the bed.

Why it happens: Even the toilet-trained won’t be dry regularly until after age six. “Younger kids’ bodies aren’t ready to hold urine as they sleep,” says Linda M. Dairiki Shortliffe, M.D., chair of the department of urology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

How to rest easy: Disposable briefs and a waterproof mattress cover may be your best bets. And even if she is dry most nights, expect accidents when she is sick, away from home, or under stress.


Problem: Your older child (seven or up) wets the bed.

Why it happens: “It could indicate a urinary-tract infection,” says Shortliffe. However, about 5 to 10 percent of school-age children (boys, mostly) suffer from bed-wetting.

How to rest easy: “A good initial solution is a bed alarm, which wakes up the child after an accident,” says Shortliffe. (It is attached to sensors that detect wetness.) “But it can take about four months to really see results, since the child’s brain has to be trained to wake him up before he needs to use the bathroom,” she explains. A short-term option for unusual circumstances (camp, a slumber party) is desmopressin, a synthetic hormone that makes the bladder create less liquid at night. The good news: By adolescence, his body should produce enough vasopressin, a natural antidiuretic, to dry up his bed-wetting problem.


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