Some medications used to help treat mental health conditions can make children and youth feel sleepy, while others may disrupt their sleep.
- antidepressant, antipsychotic or anti-anxiety medications can lead to daytime sleepiness or cause difficulty sleeping.
- stimulant medications on the other hand, such as those used to treat ADHD, may keep your child awake and cause trouble falling asleep at night.
But there are some strategies that can reduce the impact of these medications on sleep. If the sleep problems started after medication, talk immediately with your doctor to review the timing and the dosage of your child’s medication.
If a mental health medication causes sleepiness, for example, they may suggest having your child take the dose closer to bedtime. Or stimulant medications might be changed to give earlier in the day and further away from bedtime.
You can find more information on medications here, including their side effects.
Sleep promoting medications
While it’s best to encourage good sleep habits as a first line of treatment for children and youth, sometimes changes to sleep habits combined with sleep promoting medications are even more effective.
For some children and youth, taking melatonin as a part of their treatment plan may result in a better night’s sleep, and help regulate their internal clock.
Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces naturally. It helps regulate the sleep cycle. As melatonin levels rise in the evening, we feel less alert, and when they fall by morning, we know it’s time to wake up. Melatonin supplements can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, how long someone stays asleep, and may improve daytime alertness.
It’s important to talk to your doctor before giving your child melatonin or any other sleep promoting medication. The correct dosage, method, and time of use must correspond to your child’s age and particular sleep problem.
Even though melatonin is available over-the-counter (without a prescription) in North America, it is still important to talk to your doctor. While it might help your child fall asleep, it could mask other sleep problems that need to be investigated.
As well, some sleep promoting medications can interfere with your child’s existing medications, and are not helpful for all sleep difficulties.
Speak with your doctor about medications that may be helpful for your child.