HEALTHY LIVING
01/26/2012 02:57 pm ET

5 Tips For Battling Parasomnia Sleep Disorder

Parasomnia sleep disorders are a common group of sleep disorders that usually affect children and teens. We spoke to Roxanne Valentino, M.D., medical director of the St. Thomas Center for Sleep in Nashville, Tennessee, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have a parasomnia sleep disorder, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

"Parasomnia disorders are a large group of sleep disturbances," says Dr. Valentino. The term covers "sleepwalking, talking during sleep, night terrors and even bedwetting." Parasomnias have a wide range of causes, including everything from fevers to emotional problems.

Keep The Sleeper Safe

"If you have a sleepwalker, put a buzzer on the child's bedroom door," suggests Dr. Valentino. This alerts parents when the child leaves the room. "Secure the bedroom windows so that the sleeper doesn't open them and possibly fall," she says.

Treat The Cause

It's important to realize that there could be underlying issues prompting parasomnia sleep disorders. "High fever, alcohol use, worry or sadness and even sleep deprivation all contribute to parasomnia," says Dr. Valentino. Treat the fever. Discuss alcohol abuse with your teen. Help your child work through emotions before sleep. These are some ways to help prevent or stop the behavior.

Set A Sleep Routine

"Exhaustion plays a role in parasomnia," she says, which is why parents are encouraged to help their children "set and maintain a routine that sets aside enough time to get a good night's sleep." This may include changes in homework or TV time.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

"Keep the bed for sleep," advises Dr. Valentino. "This teaches the body that time in bed is time to sleep, not time to walk around." Don't watch TV, do homework or play video games in bed, as these activities stimulate the area of the brain that should be relaxed and resting.

Relax

Dr. Valentino assures parents not to worry, as children overcome these disorders in time. "The disorders are disturbing but benign," she insists, adding that there is "no correlation between parasomnia and other disorders." In fact, more than 90 percent of children outgrow these behaviors by the time they reach their teens. However, if any of these disorders affect your child's life or place your child in danger, you should seek help immediately.

Roxanne Valentino, M.D., earned her medical degree from the Ohio State University. She completed her residency at the Cleveland Clinic, followed by a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic focusing on sleep medicine and neurophysiology. Dr. Valentino is certified in neurology and clinical neurophysiology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, in addition to sleep medicine by the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?

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