Children's sleep problems are a huge headache for families; now it looks as if the sleep problems themselves could be linked to headaches.
The good news is that treating the medical condition that causes the headaches or stomach problems may well improve children's sleep. This study, conducted by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa., examined 700 children ages 5 to 12 years and included a physical, an overnight sleep study, and neuropsychological testing. Apnea, bed-wetting, and psychiatric and behavioral disorders were also examined as possible causes of sleep problems, but a significant connection was found only to gastrointestinal regurgitation and headaches .
The big caveat is that it's impossible to tell from this study if the sleep problems are causing the headaches and stomach problems, or vice versa. But Ravi Singareddy, an assistant professor of psychiatry who led the study, says parents should get the medical complaints treated first. Only if the sleep problems don't improve when the medical problem diminishes should the sleep disturbance be assessed and treated.
If your child still needs help with sleep problems, behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, offer significantly better treatment than sleeping pills, according to a 2006 analysis by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.