Every parent has dealt with a stubborn child who seemingly refuses to go to sleep. But how can you tell if your child is simply going through a phase or may have a medical sleep disorder? When it comes to chronic sleep loss in kids, there are some telltale signs to look for. And once you identify them, you can take steps to help your kids (and you) sleep soundly again. Symptoms of Chronic Sleep Loss in Children There are many different types of sleep problems in children. These range from disorders, such as sleep apnea (pauses in breathing), restless legs syndrome, sleepwalking, and bedwetting to problems associated with falling asleep or going back to sleep after awakening. Some signs of a chronic sleep problem or disorder include: Trouble falling asleep Excessive daytime sleepiness Behavioral problems Difficulty concentrating at school Frequent waking during the night Snoring Pauses in breathing or gasps while sleeping If you notice any of these signs in your child on a regular basis, you may want to keep a sleep log for a couple of weeks. Make a note of the problems you notice at night, when they occur, under what conditions, and for how long. Also, take note of your child’s activities and behavior during the day, as well as what she had to eat or drink. Make an appointment to discuss the sleep log with your child’s doctor. This will help the doctor determine if your child has a sleep problem and what kind of treatment, if any, is needed. Helping Your Kids Sleep Better Having a child who’s a restless sleeper or who doesn’t get enough sleep is, well, tiring. Because let’s face it: When your child is not sleeping, you’re not sleeping. And that’s stressful for the whole family. These lifestyle changes can help make bedtime more restful for everyone: Follow a consistent routine. While real life with kids is anything but predictable, try to keep your child’s bedtime routine generally the same. For example: bath, brush teeth, story or chat, lights out. Avoid electronics, such as iPads, TVs or smart phones right before bed. The blue light emitted from these devices has been shown to disturb sleep. Keep TV programs and video games age-appropriate to help reduce anxiety and nightmares. Don’t overdo naps during the day. Create a relaxing bedtime environment with blinds or drapes on windows, soft lighting throughout the house, and quiet, one-on-one time with Mom or Dad. Be sure your child doesn’t have an empty stomach at bedtime, but also don’t let him or her eat right before bed. Some kids associate eating or drinking with bedtime and can become dependent on it to fall asleep. Also, avoid letting your child fall asleep with a bottle or while nursing, or while being held or rocked. Before bedtime, avoid products with stimulants like caffeine, chocolate, some cold medicines, or decongestants. Ask your doctor about medications or supplements, such as melatonin for kids, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythms (natural clock). Be sure to ask about the correct dosage for your child’s age, as well as any side effects. By making sleep a priority and watching for signs of sleep disorders, you can work with your family doctor to ensure your children are getting quality sleep. If your child is diagnosed with a sleep disorder, a “sleep team” of doctors will partner with you to find effective treatment options.