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Study: 4 in 5 Parents Have Drugged Their Kids to Sleep

Parents are administering melatonin, Benadryl, herbal sleep aids, as well as non-prescription and prescription sleep medications to aid their children’s sleep, and according to a new study 4 in 5 parents have drugged their kids to sleep.

Sleep Doctor, an online source for sleep health, improvement, and education, published a recent survey report investigating the frequency of parents administering substances, such as melatonin and Benadryl, to help their children sleep. The report also shares insight into other strategies parents employ to help their kids sleep that do not require medications.

According to the survey, 79 percent of parents have administered substances to their children for the primary purpose of aiding sleep. Among this group, Millennial and Gen Z parents were more likely to say they have given their children sleep aids than older generations, with 84% and 83% respectively saying they have. Similarly, men were more likely than women to administer such substances.

Additionally, survey findings reveal that the majority of parents admit to administering melatonin to aid their children’s sleep. Although melatonin was the most frequently used substance, parents also reported using Benadryl, herbal sleep aids, non-prescription sleep aids, and prescription sleep medications. Less commonly used substances include CBD, THC, and alcohol.

In addition to 79% of parents saying they have given their child a substance for the primary purpose of aiding sleep, other notable findings from the study include:

  • 66% of parents have given melatonin; 25% gave it to a child 3 years old or younger
  • 35% of parents say they have given benadryl to get their child to sleep
  • 20% have given their child prescription sleep aids

“Melatonin has been researched extensively for use in neurodiverse children, those with circadian rhythm disorders, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and jet lag,” said Dr. Nilong Vyas, a pediatrician, public health specialist, and board-certified sleep expert. “However, how parents and caregivers are administering unregulated and unprescribed medications to induce sleep in situations including bedtime resistance is not only not indicated but not recommended by the medical community.”

Parents have also utilized various strategies to help their children sleep without resorting to substances. The most common strategies include establishing a bedtime routine, implementing a consistent sleeping schedule, and limiting screen time before bed.

Other strategies involve promoting a healthy diet, engaging in stress-reducing activities, incorporating exercise, investing in a new mattress, and seeking guidance from a sleep therapist.

View the complete report online. The survey was conducted via SurveyMonkey in April 2024, with a total of 1,201 parents surveyed.

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