July 3, 2006

Study Nixes Benadryl for Putting Babies to Sleep

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An antihistamine most commonly sold as Benadryl does little to help infants sleep through the night even though parents and some doctors think it does, according to a study published on Monday.

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, said they based the findings on a test of 44 children age 6 to 15 months, whose parents had reported they woke up in their cribs two or more times a night.

In tests conducted in 2004 and 2005, some of the children were given diphenhydramine as the medicine is known and others an inert placebo. The parents were then asked to keep track of the children's sleep habits.

Three of 22 children in the placebo group and one of 22 in the group that received the drug had fewer nighttime wake-ups, the parents reported. And there was no difference between the two groups in how happy the parents were with their children's sleep at any point during the study.

"Many in the medical and lay community accept diphenhydramine as effective treatment for sleep problems," the report said. "Unfortunately, this attitude is based on anecdote and studies of adult physiological interactions."

The results of the study "demonstrated that at the most commonly used dose, diphenhydramine may play no role in treating infant sleep problems," it concluded.

The study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The drug is a widely used anti-allergy medication which can cause drowsiness but is not marketed for inducing sleep in infants.