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Sleep Disorders

Help to Prevent Vivid Dreams & Nightmares

01/26/2010

Question:

I was wondering what can help prevent vivid dreams and nightmares if your child is taking Melatonin? My daughter is 21mths old and the sleeping theory has her on Melatonin 3mg because she has sleeping problems. They had tried other things and they didnt work. The Melatonin works but she has started to cry out, wine and even screams crying and gets a little scared. What other things can she take to help with the vivid dreams and the nightmares?

Answer:

It’s not clear from your question what exactly the “sleeping problems” your daughter was experiencing prompting the use of melatonin. For most pediatric sleep problems, medication therapy is infrequently used. If it was a problem with insomnia, then behavioral techniques are the usual treatment in otherwise normal infants and young children. Melatonin, specifically, is rarely used in young children. Some examples of when drug therapies might be required in children include those who are blind, have neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, or medical problems such as gastroesophageal reflux.

A careful screening of other symptoms in a young child with insomnia such as snoring or frequent leg movements at night is important. A family history of insomnia or symptoms of restless leg syndrome can also provide clues to potential causes of insomnia in a young child.

At 21 months of age, crying out, whining and even screaming during sleep is often related to confusional arousals, which occur while the child is actually still asleep (though they may look like they are awake). Often, there is a family history of sleep terrors, sleepwalking or other unusual behaviors during sleep. There is no specific medicine that can reliably eliminate confusional arousals, which are harmless and tend to resolve over time.

I would suggest talking with your child’s doctor further about the insomnia and behaviors during the night. Depending on further history and physical examination, discontinuing melatonin and trying behavioral strategies might be most helpful.

To learn more about infant insomnia and confusional arousals suggest looking at Richard Ferber’s book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems which is available at many public libraries

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Response by:

Mark   Splaingard, MD Mark Splaingard, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University