Pediatric sleep pharmacology

Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2008 Jun;15(2):79-90. doi: 10.1016/j.spen.2008.03.004.


This article reviews the most common pharmacologic options in the treatment of sleep disorders in children. Despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders in children, there is a paucity of education and information available on the pharmacologic management of sleep disorders in children. The principles of sleep physiology and pathophysiology that help provide more rational pharmacologic management are discussed. Medications are typically not Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for the pediatric age range or for the specific sleep disorder. Medications have a role for insomnia, narcolepsy, parasomnias, and sleep-related movement disorders. The available choices of hypnotics are reviewed. Medications to increase alertness of narcoleptics and decrease cataplexy are discussed. The use of dopaminergic agents for Restless Legs Syndrome is reviewed. The potential use of medication in sleep apnea is also reviewed. Pharmacologic guidelines need to be developed specifically for sleep disorders in children. Ideally, these guidelines should be FDA approved for the specific sleep disorder and for the pediatric age range. The development of easy to swallow, chewable or liquid forms of these medications are needed. Training programs should play the lead role in enhancing pediatricians' knowledge of the pharmacologic treatment of sleep disorders in children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Infant
  • Narcolepsy / drug therapy
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives