Are there any safe medications to help promote sleep for toddlers?
The short answer is, no. There are currently no drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intended to promote sleep in infants and young children. Most drugs have not been formally tested for pediatric sleep disorders, so their use specifically for sleep disorders is not evidence-based. That means that in most cases if a medication is prescribed for a pediatric sleep problem, the medication was not originally created or approved for that use by the FDA. Other over-the-counter herbal remedies (such as chamomile, hops, passion flower, or St. John’s wort valerian) are not recommended either, since there is little to no support that they work and safe pediatric doses have not been established. Medications such as antihistamines can cause side effects such as crankiness, hyperactivity, challenging behavior and daytime drowsiness in some children.
In sum, it is important to know that there is no clear consensus as to the optimum medication in terms of type, dose (how much and when), duration or when to even consider medication for sleep in infants. The best treatment of sleep problems in typically developing young children is almost always education and behavioral techniques, which have been shown to be very effective.
Regarding any medications (prescription or over the counter), always consult with your child’s pediatrician or health care provider.
About Dr. Oliviero Bruni