Huge spike in sleep drug use among children in Sweden

Huge spike in sleep drug use among children in Sweden
A boy sleeps in his bed. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Sweden has seen a ninefold increase over ten years in the number of children using melatonin to help them sleep better, Sveriges Radio reports.

Citing figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), the report said 23,000 people in the 0-19 age bracket used the prescription drug in 2015, despite its use not being formally approved for minors. 

“It’s a big increase, and there’s also increased use of other medicines used to treat sleep disorders,” Ninna Gullberg from the Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) told the radio network’s Ekot news programme. 

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the human body. The medical variant has no known side effects but the health board’s medical expert Barbro Thurfjell said not enough studies had been carried out on potential long-term effects. 

Doctors are only allowed to prescribe melatonin to help children sleep if other medicines or methods have not worked. 

It is often used to help children return to a normal sleep pattern after they have experienced sleeping difficulties that can have a negative impact on day-to-day life.

Children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are often prescribed the drug.