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TOO much time glued to social media is fueling a sleep crisis in children, with the number of pills dished out doubling in just seven years.

Doctors dolled out more than 700,000 prescriptions in 2022 to youngsters who are struggling to switch off at night – some of whom were babies.

Sleeping pills are being doled out to children as they struggle with mental health issues


Sleeping pills are being doled out to children as they struggle with mental health issuesCredit: Getty

It is an increase of a quarter in three years and a “worrying “concerning” jump of 110 per cent in seven years

Experts believe a toxic cocktail of more time spent on social media, the cost-of-living crisis and disruption to children’s lives caused by the Covid pandemic has made sleeping more difficult. 

Children aged 11 were most often given the pills, according to NHS figures, accounting for 80,274 prescriptions – or more than 1,500 a week.

Some 154 were worryingly issued to babies under the age of one.

The revelation comes as separate statistics show hundreds of children and teenagers in England are being admitted to hospital with sleep disorders, with admissions for conditions such as insomnia almost doubling in recent years. 

Under-25s are struggling to cope, and this is having a knock-on impact on sleeping patterns

Zoe BailieThe Mix

“This rise in sleeping tablets is a real concern because, as doctors, we try to avoid sleeping tablets at any age and only give them out in extreme cases,” Dr Sarah Jarvis, a clinical director at patient.info told Sun Health.

She said there is “very good evidence” to suggest young people are “really struggling with their mental health”, which can lead to sleep issues.

“Depression and anxiety both commonly lead to problems sleeping – whether it’s not getting to sleep, waking up often during the night or waking early in the morning,” she explained.

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“While the Covid-19 pandemic made things worse, the rise in mental health problems started long before that.

“Young children are using social media more than ever before, and that has been linked to mental distress, self-harm, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem,” she said.

Zoe Bailie, of The Mix, a charity for young people, said the rise in sleeping pills is “extremely concerning” but unfortunately “not surprising in the context of the enormous pressures young people are facing.

“Due to the long-term impacts of Covid, the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the cost-of-living crisis and the reduction of youth services, under-25s are struggling to cope, and this is having a knock-on impact on sleeping patterns,” she told MailOnline.

‘Unprecedented pressures faced by children’

NHS guidelines say doctors should not normally prescribe sleep medication to kids unless it is for a short-term treatment.

The figures from 2022 show medics issued 716,464 prescriptions for hypnotics – sleeping tablets and liquid medicine – to children under 16 in England.

This increased from 643,998 in the previous 12 months, from 570,147 in 2020 and 339,848 in 2016.

An NHS spokesperson said: “These figures show the continued unprecedented pressures faced by children and young people and reflect the increased demand for children’s mental health services — the NHS is providing mental health support to more children than ever before and is expanding provision as quickly as possible within the current five-year funding arrangements.

“We know there is even more to do to meet the increased demand and that’s why plans are in place to ensure more than half of pupils can access an NHS mental health support team offering early support in schools by Spring 2025 — significantly ahead of the original target.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The decision to prescribe a particular medication is a clinical one and should be based on the patient’s medical needs and best interests.”

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“We want to ensure every young person gets the mental health support they need. That’s why we’ve increased spending by more than £4.7billion in cash terms since 2018/19, and we are increasing the coverage of mental health support teams in schools to reach at least 50 per cent of pupils in England by March 2025.

“On top of this, 24 existing early support hubs across the country will receive additional funding, and the number of children and young people under 18 supported through NHS-funded mental health services has gone up by 31 per cent since March 2021.”

How to sleep train your baby

ANY new parent knows just how precious sleep becomes when you have a baby.

Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night without comforting from you.

The goal of sleep training is to help your baby learn to self-soothe when they’re put to bed awake, or when they wake up in the middle of the night.

Baby sleep expert Hannah Love, has suggested five things to try to encourage your newborn to sleep through the night by the time they reach 12 weeks of age:

Feed when your baby is hungry

While your first port of call may be to feed your baby, Hannah suggests that “you do not need to use the breast or bottle every time your baby cries”.

“Remember their sleeping and feeding signals are pretty much identical in the early days so rooting, crying, sucking, lip smacking etc. can all be tired signs too,” she said.

“Try to use feeding as a last resort rather than the first option, especially if your baby has fed within the last 2 hours.

“This will inevitably mean you manage bigger gaps between feeds and baby can learn to sleep without feeding.”

Separating feeding and sleep

If your baby is always feeding to sleep, they could find it very difficult to go to sleep and remain asleep overnight without you feeding them,” Hannah explained.

“Aim for the EASA routine – Eat Activity Sleep Activity – so that you have a little awake time on either side of feeding in the daytime.

“If your baby is sleepy after a feed, wake them, change their nappy, and give them a little awake time before getting them to sleep without feeding.”

Sleepy cuddles are good

All parents love a sleepy cuddle with their baby, but it’s important to ensure you’re holding them in the correct way.

“Hold your baby in a position similar to them being in their cot, e.g. on their back,” Hannah said.

“Opt for them sleeping in the crook of your arm on their back or lying on your knees on their back, or on your tummy, on their back,” she added.

Avoid using a sling  

While slings can be useful in some situations, they can also encourage a baby to sleep in a position that won’t be helpful in achieving a full night’s rest.

“If you are going out then use the pram or car seat,” Hannah suggests.

“In the home use a baby bouncer or their cot.

“If you use a sling all the time, your baby will learn to sleep upright and tummy to tummy.

“This position is less than ideal overnight – as it will mean that need you to walk up and down with your baby in a sling at 3am.”


It’s important to practice “your baby going to sleep on a hard-ish surface, on their back, from the start”.

“This could be their crib or a Sleepyhead or pillow on your knees (when supervised) or next to you on a bed or a baby bouncer with a little bounce,” Hannah suggests.

“You may help them with a head stroke, little bounce, rock or wiggle but try and practice from early on.”

“Putting in some gentle habits that are similar to sleeping in their cot, on their back will mean less habits to reverse later on,” Hannah concluded.

“By setting in place a good routine from day one and avoiding habits such as rocking or feeding to sleep, your baby can and will learn to self-settle.

“If your baby learns this vital skill from day one, there will be no need for sleep training later on and they have a much better chance of sleeping through the night from 12 weeks.”

Do you think you may suffer from Sleep Issues and live in Florida, California or New York?

If so, please consider scheduling a proper virtual online Sleep Disorder and Anxiety diagnosis with one of our physicians. Although we have an online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis tool, a proper diagnosis from a Board-Certified Medical Doctor will help you know for sure. If appropriate, a customized treatment program will be recommended at the conclusion of that initial visit.

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