20 Apr 2023
Sleep is essential for the physical and mental well-being of children. Unfortunately, insomnia is a disorder that affects many children, making falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning challenging. Some parents, feeling helpless, turn to sleep pills as a quick solution. Still, there are significant reasons to avoid using these medications for children who have insomnia. This blog post will explore why avoiding sleeping pills in children is vital and discuss alternative strategies that work better and pose fewer risks.
One of the major concerns with using sleeping pills for children is their potential to cause side effects and dependency. Most sleeping medications, especially hypnotics or sedatives, can have undesirable effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness, headache, and gastrointestinal disturbances. Additionally, the repeated use of sleeping pills can lead to dependence, making it difficult for the child to fall asleep without them. This propensity for addiction will make it even more challenging to resolve the child's sleep problems in the longer term.
Sleep constitutes various cycles and stages, including rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. Prescription sleeping pills have been shown to interfere with sleep architecture, reducing sleep quality. As a result, children who rely on sleeping pills to fall asleep may not get the full therapeutic benefits of proper sleep. This can affect their development, memory consolidation, and overall well-being.
Insomnia in children can be caused by various factors such as anxiety, depression, poor sleep hygiene, or even an undiagnosed medical condition. Using sleeping pills to treat the problem may only provide temporary relief while masking the underlying issue. Identifying and addressing the cause of insomnia is crucial to helping the child have long-lasting, restful sleep.
Many studies on sleeping pills are short-term and do not provide sufficient evidence regarding their long-term effectiveness and safety in children. Moreover, several studies have found cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to be more effective in managing insomnia than medication, yielding long-lasting improvements in sleep without the risk of side effects or dependency on drugs.
1. Establishing a sleep-friendly environment
Creating a conducive environment for sleep is crucial in helping children overcome insomnia. Ensure the child's bedroom is dark, quiet, and calm. Invest in blackout curtains, sound machines, or other tools that help block out noise and light. Encourage a consistent bedtime that aligns with the child's natural sleep rhythm, which can help with falling asleep quickly.
2. Practising good sleep hygiene
Help your child develop good sleep hygiene habits. These may include avoiding electronic screens and stimulating activities before bedtime, having a consistent pre-sleep routine, and not consuming caffeinated beverages or sugar close to bedtime.
3. Encouraging relaxation techniques
Teaching children relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or guided imagery can help them release stress and anxiety and prepare their minds and bodies for a restful night's sleep.
4. Seeking professional help
If your child's insomnia persists despite your efforts, do the following:
· Consider seeking help from a sleep specialist who can help evaluate your child's sleep patterns
· Guide on establishing healthy sleep habits and recommend appropriate treatment options.
· Seeking professional help early on can help prevent long-term sleep disturbances and ensure your child gets the excellent night's rest they need to thrive.
While sleeping pills may seem like an easy solution to treat insomnia in children, avoiding them is essential. Sleeping pills can cause harmful side effects and even lead to dependence on the medication. Instead, parents should work with their child's healthcare provider to identify the root cause of insomnia and explore non-pharmacological treatments such as behavioural changes, sleep hygiene practices, and relaxation techniques.
By avoiding sleeping pills and prioritizing natural sleep aids, parents can help their children establish healthy sleep patterns and achieve the restful, restorative sleep they need to grow and thrive.