New research suggests that insomnia is a widespread and growing problem among children and when dealing with this issue, psychiatrists will often prescribe medication. This was discovered by Dr. Owens from Providence’s Brown Medical School. Along with her colleagues, Dr. Owens found that in a survey taken involving child psychiatrists, insomnia was reported as a major problem in about a third of all of their school-aged and teenage patients. The child psychiatrists fully endorsed using medication to treat existing insomnia in at least 25% of their patients.
Owens and her colleagues had about 1,300 members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry complete a survey which examined the patterns of clinical practice in regards to both prescription and non-prescription medications for treating insomnia in children by child and adolescent psychiatrists. The results of this survey revealed that a shocking 96% of clinicians recommended 1 or more medications per month and 88% recommended a medication from over-the-counter. The medications prescribed for helping these children and adolescents sleep ranged from sedating medications used for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Clonidine, to simple antihistamines, to severe antidepressants such as Trazodone. Other medications included things from various categories such as antipsychotics and anticonvulsants. The medication prescribed varied based on the behavioral diagnosis of the patient.
The most significant rationale for using sleep medication from child psychiatrists is to try and manage what is disrupting the sleep and therefore reduce its effect on functioning during the day.
For primary physicians, serious barriers to the use of sleep medication included the concern of side effects and the lack of proof toward the medications effectiveness as a whole was also taken into consideration. Even though there was a great deal of usage and a broad range of medications used by child psychiatrists, there was also some concern about whether or not it was still appropriate to prescribe children with sleep medication. This is exactly why a child psychiatrist is far more likely to prescribe medication for insomnia than say, a pediatrician.
Owens suggests that mental health professionals that are caring for child patients should establish a better understanding based on evidence for the best and most appropriate treatment of insomnia in children. There needs to be a better understanding of insomnia within this age group as well in order to have a positive long-term prognosis for these children and adolescents.
Woods, T. 2010. Child Psychiatrists Prescribing More Sleeping Pills for Children.