Medicating Toddlers

Studies that have been conducted on the subject of toddler sleep disturbances have been consistent in finding that 25% of all children exhibit some type of sleep disturbance. While pediatricians tend to tell parents their kids will grow out of the problem, the evidence suggests that this is not the case. What are the ramifications of these sleep difficulties?

Impatient Parents

Well, for one thing, the parents can become mighty fatigued themselves. That means they can become impatient with their toddlers who just can't sleep. It also means that parents derive less satisfaction from their family experience.

Infant and toddler sleep disturbance (ITSD) is a basket term for a variety of sleep issues, including sleep apnea, disrupted sleeping schedule, difficulty settling down at bedtime, and wakefulness throughout the night. There are many different approaches to sleep disturbances—probably as many approaches as there are types of sleep problems. Here we take a look at one type of medication that a doctor might prescribe for ITSD—antihistamines.

Bombarded Doctors

Doctors are always bombarded with parents dying for a drop of sleep—if only their children would comply, and quickly. Their urgency has an effect on a doctor's choice of treatment for the problem. That means that while sedatives are generally frowned upon as the first line of treatment for ITSD, it's fairly common for a pediatrician to prescribe such medication for little ones who can't sleep.

Pediatricians don't have much to go on when choosing a medication to prescribe to their small-fry patients. There aren't many clinical studies to guide doctors in this matter, so they rely on what they've heard from other doctors and what they've seen in their own patients. The most frequent choices of medication for sleep disturbances are antihistamines, chloral hydrate, and benzodiazepine. The natural hormone melatonin has had its profile raised of late and some have found it to have a beneficial effect on sleep disturbances.

Antihistamines are often prescribed for the upper respiratory symptoms that accompany a child's colds or allergies, for instance runny noses, itching eyes, and sneezing. Those that contain dyphenhydramine, for example Benadryl, tend to make kids sleepy. As a result, this medication has become a popular solution for kids with sleep issues.

Parental Anxiety

Studies have shown that these antihistamines bring on short-term relief, help kids fall asleep faster, cut down crying time in infants, and bring a reduction in parental anxiety. The downside of this type of treatment is that the effects are only temporary and most kids still won't sleep through the night. Besides these antihistamine-related issues, babies get a hangover from the medication and when they go off these drugs they go through withdrawal insomnia, as well.