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Benadryl Ineffective as Infant Sleep Aid

Trial stopped early due to antihistamine's ineffectiveness

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the fact that it is sometimes recommended by pediatricians as an infant sleep aid, diphenhydramine is less effective than placebo at reducing nighttime awakening and improving overall parental happiness with infants' sleeping habits, according to a paper published in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Dan Merenstein, M.D., of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues conducted a blinded six-week trial of 44 children aged 6 to 15 months who were randomized to receive either diphenhydramine (available over the counter in generic forms or as Benadryl) or placebo.

Only one in 22 children slept better after using the antihistamine compared to three of 22 who took placebo, the study showed. The data safety monitoring board stopped the Trial of Infant Response to Diphenhydramine (TIRED) study early due to lack of effectiveness. Only one child who received the antihistamine showed evidence of hyperactivity although it has been reported in about 7 percent of diphenhydramine users.

While a larger study is needed to draw any solid conclusions, "I would advise parents to think about different methods to help a child sleep," Merenstein said in a statement. Merenstein was affiliated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore when the study was conducted.

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