Children are in the grips of sleep crisis with the number of pills dished out doubling in just seven years.

The stresses of modern-day life — including widespread use of phones and tablets — have left youngsters unable to switch off at night.

Prescriptions for sleeping pills have rocketed according to official NHS data, with more than 700,000 issued in 2022.

This is a leap of a quarter in three years and more than double the 339,848 in 2016.

Experts believe the struggle to turn off from modern life is fuelling a sleep crisis, with stresses such as the cost of living and fallout from Covid leaving a generation of children battling to sleep.

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

It comes as separate statistics show hundreds of teenagers are being admitted to hospital with sleep disorders, with admissions for conditions such as insomnia almost doubling over a similar period.

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

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

Zoe Bailie, of The Mix, a charity for young people, said: ‘The continued increase in the numbers of young people being prescribed 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.’

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

But almost 14,000 prescriptions a week were given to parents for medicine to help their child get to sleep.

Some 154 of the prescriptions were issued to babies, who had yet to reach their first birthday. 

It comes after the Children’s Commissioner warned the challenges of modern life are placing an unprecedented toll on youngsters’ emotional wellbeing.

NHS guidelines say doctors should not normally prescribe sleep medication to kids unless it is for a short-term treatment. But almost 14,000 prescriptions a week were given to parents for medicine to help their child get to sleep. The NHS currently advises children with longer-term sleep problems can take melatonin (pictured) if a specialist recommends it

NHS guidelines say doctors should not normally prescribe sleep medication to kids unless it is for a short-term treatment. But almost 14,000 prescriptions a week were given to parents for medicine to help their child get to sleep. The NHS currently advises children with longer-term sleep problems can take melatonin (pictured) if a specialist recommends it

NHS guidelines say doctors should not normally prescribe sleep medication to kids unless it is for a short-term treatment. But almost 14,000 prescriptions a week were given to parents for medicine to help their child get to sleep. The NHS currently advises children with longer-term sleep problems can take melatonin (pictured) if a specialist recommends it

Earlier this year, Rachel de Souza said the NHS is ill-equipped to cope with the fallout caused by ‘harmful’ social media, a cost of living crisis and the pandemic.

She said this generation of children has experienced ‘uniquely uncertain and challenging times’, and highlighted that an increasing number are ‘exposed to the harmful impact of social media, cyber bullying, and online exploitation’.

‘I do not think it is an overstatement to speak of a crisis in children’s mental health and the services needed to support them’, she said in the forward of the report.

Dr Susie Davies, founder of Parents Against Phone Addiction in Young Adolescents, said: ‘The increasing use of potentially addictive hypnotics in children highlights the negative effect that exposure to technology 24/7 has on the sleep quality and quantity of our children.

‘Quality sleep is fundamental for good mental health, whereas poor sleep is linked to low mood, anxiety, diminished concentration, and obesity. It’s essential we work together to help our children switch off from devices at night and get better quality sleep.’

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.’

Source: Mail Online

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