Slip Him A Mickey

Finding it hard to get through the day? Rubbing your eyes a great deal? Yeah, we know. You're not the one with the sleep issues—it's your kid! He wakes up several times at night, or takes forever to settle down until you find that one of you has fallen asleep on the floor, and it's usually not your toddler.

You are not alone—as many as 25% of all infants and toddlers have some kind of sleep disturbance. You're being run ragged, so you run to your pediatrician for help. The problem is there isn't any tried and true, quick resolution.

Drugging Children??

The doctor may decide your situation is so urgent that you need a short-term solution. That means medication. Yes, the idea of drugging your child so all of you can get some rest is unsavory, but you just can't take it anymore. What are the options?

Well, there are antihistamines, for one thing. You may have noticed that your child's allergy medication makes him sleepy. It's a real phenomenon. Benadryl makes kids sleepy. So, your doctor may prescribe it for some short-term relief. But be forewarned that your toddler will likely have a hangover the next morning, and when you stop medicating him, he's going to have a whopping case of withdrawal insomnia. A few nights of sleep may not be worth these adverse effects.

Other medications often prescribed for ITSD (infant and toddler sleep disturbances) include chloral hydrate, benzodiazepine, and melatonin. Here we discuss chloral hydrate.

Mickey Finn

Chloral hydrate was first synthesized in the year 1832 and has become infamous as the medical agent contained in a "Mickey Finn." In old movies, mafia henchmen were always treating someone to an alcoholic drink laced with chloral hydrate. The act became known by the expression, "slipping a Mickey."

Today, chloral hydrate is in common use as a sedative for children who must undergo medical or dental procedures. Doctors do often prescribe this medication for ITSD, and for this purpose chloral hydrate is probably second in popularity only to benadryl. It's important that your pediatrician give a very thorough physical evaluation and sleep history before he or she prescribes chloral hydrate, since this medication has the potential to cause unpleasant side effects in children suffering from sleep apnea. Chloral hydrate has also been known to be the culprit in the occasional case of accidental overdose. Fatigued parents who lose sleep because their kids aren't sleeping must summon up some extra vigilance when dosing a child with this medication.


While there's a great deal of data attesting to the safety and effectiveness of chloral hydrate as a one-time dose for kids undergoing dental or medical procedures, no such studies show what will happen to children with sleep disturbances who are receiving regular doses of the stuff. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry finds this fact alarming, considering that chloral hydrate comes with a risk for the accumulation of metabolites that might be carcinogenic. As safe new alternatives come onto the market, for instance melatonin, a natural hormone that can help regulate the sleep/wake cycle, chloral hydrate will likely be phased out as a sleep sedative for children.