Cow's milk intolerance and sleeplessness in children

Date: July, 1990

Difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep is a common problem among infants and continues to affect some children through the first five years of life. Numerous explanations have been offered for childhood sleep difficulties, including adverse environmental conditions, family stress, inappropriate parental behavior and physical problems. One possible cause is cow's milk intolerance. Kahn and associates studied children with sleeping difficulties to determine if cow's milk intolerance was responsible.

A total of 146 children younger than five years of age were referred by their physicians to a university sleep clinic because of frequent waking and crying during normal sleep hours. The study included parental interviews with a pediatrician, psychologist and dietitian, a complete physical examination and specialty referrals when needed.

Behavioral and environmental factors were the cause of sleep problems in 116 (79.5 percent) of the children. Sleep habits improved in these children after parental counseling. Thirteen children (8.9 percent) had physical problems such as otitis, inguinal hernia and esophageal reflux. Their sleep became normal after treatment.

After complete evaluation, no explanation was found for the sleeping difficulties of 17 (11.6 percent) of the children. In 15 of these children, sleep habits improved when cow's milk was excluded from the children's diets. The sleep problems recurred when the children were rechallenged with cow's milk in a double-blind fashion.

The authors emphasize that most causes of sleep disturbance in young children are related to behavioral and environmental factors that are amenable to counseling. Cow's milk intolerance should be a consideration only in the most persistent and severe cases of sleep disturbance. (Pediatrics, October 1989, vol. 84, p. 595.)

COPYRIGHT 1990 American Academy of Family PhysiciansCOPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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