We already know that a good night’s rest is essential for growing children and teenagers. And despite having that knowledge, there’s no denying that kids these days are getting less sleep than ever before.
National polls have shown that 27 percent of school-age children and 45 percent of adolescents don’t sleep enough. Some of this is due is to increased demands in the form of homework and extracurricular activities, but other children suffer from diagnosed forms of insomnia.
No Rest for the Young?
A new study led by Dr. Judith Owens of Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., found that child psychiatrists identified insomnia as an issue in nearly one-third of their school-aged and adolescent patients.
But perhaps surprisingly, they recommended using sleeping pills in at least 25 percent of these cases. “All-natural” sleeping aids like melatonin were also recommended to more than one-third of patients. Her findings were published in a recent issue of the journal Sleep Medicine.
Child psychiatrists typically prescribe sleeping pills due to effects that a lack of sleep can have on young bodies during the day. Childhood insomnia has been linked to a wide range of medical and psychological problems including aggressive behavior, poor concentration in school and anxiety.
The Sleep Prescription
A study released last January from Idaho State University also concluded that adolescents with sleep issues may be more susceptible to binge drinking and driving drunk later in life.
There are no FDA-approved sleep medications for children, which means young kids are taking powerful adult medications that have side effects that can include weakness, uncontrollable shaking and difficulty keeping balance.
These pills are also not designed to be taken for more than a few days at a time. Even melatonin pills carry side effects including daytime drowsiness, dizziness and headaches. In best case scenarios, the pills should not be used for longer than four consecutive weeks.
Owens recommends cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and meditation as alternative methods to help aid with sleep. Overuse of technology at night can also be an issue.
Shelby Harris, a sleep psychologist and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, explained that “blue light [from device screens] makes our brains think it’s daytime and makes the melatonin go away,”
Although some kids truly do have more difficulty falling asleep than others, medications should be used as a last resort option. There are numerous other alternatives that can aid with sleep which often come down to lifestyle choices. Make the commitment as a family to switch off at night, literally and figuratively, in order to ensure you’re rested and refreshed in the morning.
Learn more about the overdose symptoms and treatment of insomnia medications.
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