These days, it seems many medical doctors' first course of
action is to recommend or prescribe drugs for any patient
complaint; disturbingly, this trend seems to hold true whether
the patient is an adult or a child.
eye-opening study published in the May issue of Pediatrics
revealed that many pediatricians have recommended the use
of medication for children who suffer from sleep disturbances.
In fact, of the 671 U.S. pediatricians surveyed, 75 percent
said they had advised parents to administer an over-the-counter
(OTC) medication, and more than 50 percent had prescribed
a sleep aid.
Surprisingly, antihistamines were common OTC medications
recommended, while a commonly prescribed sleep aid was clonidine,
which is used to treat behavioral problems. Neither of these
medications was specifically designed to treat insomnia; in
fact, little is known about their safety and effectiveness
for treating sleep-related problems. Moreover, they were administered
to children who had difficulty sleeping and/or awoke frequently
during the night, which most would agree is a fairly natural
occurrence - especially in children.
On the flip side, many of these doctors may be overlooking
more serious health problems masked as insomnia, including
depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychological
problems, and other medical conditions. And according to the
study, the practitioners themselves expressed "a range of
concerns about sleep medication appropriateness, safety, tolerance
and side-effects in children."
If your child suffers from sleep-related difficulties, ask
your doctor about all the options before opting for a "quick
fix" with medication. There are many reasons for insomnia
(in children and adults); make sure your physician determines
the reason behind your child's problem - and its severity
- before deciding the best manner in which to treat it.
Owens JA, Rosen CL, Mindell JA. Medication
use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: results of a survey
of community-based pediatricians. Pediatrics (online
version), May 2003: Volume 111, Number 5, p.e628.
To learn more about common childhood health issues, go to