The University of Houston has announced the opening of a new research center providing low-cost evaluation and treatment for children struggling with sleep disorders.

The Sleep and Anxiety Center for Kids (SACK) will be under the direction of Candice Alfano, associate professor in clinical psychology at the University of Houston.

"We know from previous research that anxiety and sleep problems are among the most common in kids, affecting up to 30 percent of youth," said Alfano. "Despite their high prevalence, there is little research taking place to teach us how exactly sleep and mental health disorders are related."

Alfano uses a range of methods to assess children's sleep, including clinical interviews with parents and children, polysomnography, and actigraphy - a watch-like device worn on the wrist to measure sleep patterns.

“If we can identify the kids who are most likely to be anxious or depressed, perhaps based on the earlier emergence of sleep problems, then we can intervene before these disorders take hold,” said Alfano.