According to a 2007 review published in the journal Sleep, almost 20 million US children received medical attention for sleep difficulties between the years 1993 and 2004. This treatment often included prescriptions for hypnotic medications like barbiturate and benzodiazepine drugs. Because these drugs often cause adverse reactions, many of them remain unapproved for use in a pediatric population. Fortunately, other effective and safe options exist for the treatment of sleep disorders in children and adolescents.
Cetirizine, an antihistamine drug, reduces cold and allergy symptoms. Sold as Zrytec, this medication often causes drowsiness and therefore may alleviate insomnia. A 2010 survey offered in the publication Clinical Drug Investigation suggests that several common antihistamine drugs improve sleep in children with allergies. Cetirizine is available over the counter, and it was the most potent hypnotic drug tested in the study. Antihistamines remain the only drugs approved for use in pediatric populations due to their lack of significant side effects.
Melatonin, a hormone released nightly by the pineal gland, serves as a trigger for nighttime sleep. When taken orally in a pill form, melatonin reduces anxiety and promotes sleep in healthy adults. A 2010 study described in the periodical Pediatric Neurology indicates similar effects in epileptic children. Such kids often display sleep disorders like teeth grinding, nocturnal wandering, and sleep apnea. Thirty nights of melatonin use reduced these unwanted behaviors as well as seizure activity. More importantly, melatonin did not cause negative reactions in the children tested.
Valerian, an herbal supplement, induces feelings of calmness. When combined with lemon balm, valerian reduces anxiety and enhances sleepiness in normal adults. A 2006 experiment offered in the journal Phytomedicine reveals a comparable result in "restless" children. These kids typically experience difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep. Herbal treatment produced improvement in at least 70 percent of the children without adverse reaction.
Tart cherry juice, a traditional sleep aid, may also help treat insomnia. A 2010 report in the Journal of Medicinal Food tested this hypothesis in older adults. Two weeks of nightly intake of a cherry juice blend reduced the amount of time spent awake after falling asleep. This results indicates that common foods may positively affect sleep quality in healthy adults. The normal amounts of cherry juice ingested in this study make it an option for similar sleep difficulties in children. Other traditional remedies may have potential as hypnotic foods as well.
- "Sleep"; Trends in Medication Prescribing for Pediatric Sleep Difficulties in US Outpatient Settings; S. D. Stojanovski et al.; Aug. 1, 2007
- "Clinical Drug Investigation"; Evaluation of Treatment Satisfaction in Children with Allergic Disease Treated with an Antihistamine: an International, Non-Interventional, Retrospective Study; M. Ferrer et al.; 2010
- "Pediatric Neurology"; Melatonin and Sleep-Related Problems in Children with Intractable Epilepsy; H. A. Elkhayat et al.; April 2010
- "Phytomedicine"; A Combination of Valerian and Lemon Balm is Effective in the Treatment of Restlessness and Dyssomnia in Children; S. F. Muller et al.; June 2006
- "Journal of Medicinal Food" Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study; W. R. Pigeon et al.; June 2010