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Quirky Sleep Behavior

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Twitching, kicking, moaning, rocking...is your child sleeping or performing a self-exorcism? Kim West, author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight, explains all the nocturnal activity:

Why it happens: Young children sleep more lightly than adults and wake up more frequently. During these "partial arousals," as sleep experts call them, your kiddo might thrash about and cry out for you or talk gibberish briefly (one Parenting staffer recalls her 3-year-old son yelling "Airplane!" at 3 am, as if one was about to crash into his bedroom, and then not making another peep).

How they wind back down: To get back to sleep, most kids instinctively soothe themselves, but some have quirkier self-calming methods: they lift their legs up in the air, then plop them down; they hum; they get up on their hands and knees and rock; they chatter; they rub their pacifiers or blankies all over their faces.

What to do: Unless your child is crying out of hunger or discomfort, give her a chance to let her bizarre soothing ritual work its magic. If you go in to help out, you'll only wake her up more fully.

When to talk to the doc: Head banging is a common and usually harmless get-back-to-sleep behavior, but it's a good idea to rule out an ear infection (some kids bang their heads to "correct" their equilibrium if it's off due to fluid in the ear) and certain developmental delays. of more concern, says West, is snoring, which is not normal in youngsters and could be a sign of sleep apnea. sleepwalking is rare, but it can be dangerous; block off stairs and entrances so that your child can't hurt herself.

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