It's nearly bedtime at the DeCarlos. With four children, it can be hectic.
Five years ago, Tom and Melissa noticed 10-year-old Nicky wasn't sleeping.
“He would be saying sometimes he would wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning,” says Tom.
“It's not very fun to be up in the night and just thinking about nothing,” says Nicky. “And sometimes you get scared about nothing because the world seems big and dark.”
At first, his parents thought it was asthma-related. Then a sleep study found severe leg spasms were waking Nicky up.
“We started him on a medication at night, which actually, I think, helped with his leg kicks,” says Dr. Mark Splaingard of Columbus Children's Hospital.
The medication is Clonidine, a prescription relaxant.
But there's concern of a growing trend. A recent study by managed care company Medco found the use of sleeping pills among children ages 10 to 19, while still low, has increased 85 percent.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved these sleep aids for kids, but doesn't prevent doctors from prescribing them, either. Even so, some pediatricians refuse to do so. Others worry that today's quick fix drug culture may be ignoring old tried-and-true remedies.
“There are a lot of things we can and should do with regard to sleep disturbances, which are actually quite common in children, short of reaching for the prescription pad,” says Dr. Eli Newberger of Harvard Medical School.
Nicky knows what notto do before bed.
“I try not to do anything that would get me wound up,” he says.
And his parents would rather he not have to take the medication.
“I do see the benefits to him getting a more complete night's sleep and more restful sleep,” says Tom.
Now, most often, lights out lasts the entire night for Nicky.