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University of Houston opens Sleep and Anxiety Center for Kids
Date:1/10/2012

different types of stimuli in the environment," Alfano said. "Sleep masks and earplugs are a good way to help some kids settle into sleep. Other kids, however, need more help."

"We teach families about the importance of sleep and that it should be made a priority, the same way eating right and exercising are important. We teach children about sleep hygiene, which includes things like keeping the same bedtime and wake time every day, not having caffeinated drinks after lunch, and sleeping in your own bed every night. We also teach kids self-imagery and relaxation skills to deal with intrusive thoughts and feelings of restlessness when trying to fall asleep."

As a recipient of a Mentored Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Alfano enters year four of a five-year research study that is examining sleep disturbances in children with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). "We are studying a total of 80 children, ages 7 to 11 years, based on several measures of sleep," Alfano said. She completed the first half of recruitment for the project previously at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and will be completing data collection over the next two years in Houston.

"We in the process of submitting preliminary findings from the study for publication," Alfano said. "What is exciting is that we are finding the same objective sleep patterns in children with GAD that we see in depressed adults. This is particularly intriguing because we know that having GAD as a child is a huge risk factor for developing depression later on, but we don't yet understand exactly why this is. This data suggests it's more than just a co-occurring problem, sleep abnormalities could be a mechanism through which anxiety and depression develop."

Alfano uses a range of methods to assess children's sleep, including clinical interviews with parents and children, polysomnography and actigraphy. An actigr
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Contact: Melissa Carroll
mcarroll@uh.edu
713-743-8153
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert  

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