Children are being medicated when they can't sleep even though there is no research on the effects of these types of medication in children. In other words, your child is an experiment:
More than 80 percent of American children who visit a doctor for help combating sleep problems are given some form of prescription medication, new research has found, despite the fact that no sleeping pills are currently approved for use in kids.But here's what's worse:
"The concern with sleep medications is that we don't know how much to use and how long to use these drugs for children," explained study co-author Milap C. Nahata. "This is because many drugs used for pediatric care in general -- including sleep medications -- have been well-studied and approved by the FDA but have not been studied for effectiveness and safety among children."
Parents, get your kids off of caffeine. Don't let them watch TV or do video games after dinner. Balance all sugars (including fruit) with protein. Have a bedtime routine. A good one includes reading, brushing teeth, massaging feet, going potty, singing.
But Dr. Gregg Jacobs, an insomnia specialist with theat the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., said prescribing drugs often sidesteps the underlying causes of sleep trouble.
"Children are in the golden years of sleep," he observed. "It's not normal for them to have sleep problems. So, if they do, then you know something's wrong. And medicating the child doesn't get to the heart of the problem. It's more important to figure out what's going on. Is it stress, caffeine, a problem in the home environment?"
Jacobs added that, despite heavy marketing by drug companies designed to convince patients and physicians that prescription sleep aids are an easy and cheap solution, he believes that such therapies are only "marginally effective," regardless of the patient's age.
"And there are many side effects among adults that may be even more serious among children," he cautioned. "Patients may develop tolerance or dependence on these medications, and they often cause daytime sedation and sometimes amnesia. And probably the biggest shocking thing is that regular nightly use of sleeping pills is associated with an increased mortality rate among adults. This is shown in a dozen studies."
"Besides which, behavioral methods of treatment are extremely effective," added Jacobs. "So, why would you want to risk giving this medication to children, when they're probably not very effective and would be masking the real problem in any case? Sleeping pills should be a last resort."