In assisting to break the habit of sleeplessness, and in the process of altering the character of the suggestions which act on the child’s mind, we can be of the greatest assistance to the mother by prescribing a suitable hypnotic. As to whether it is right in insomnia in childhood to prescribe depressant drugs is a question on which very various opinions are held. That it is wrong and probably ineffective to trust entirely to the drugs is certainly true, but as a temporary measure, to break the faulty suggestion and the bad habit, their use is both legitimate and successful. The dose required in children relatively to the adult is much smaller. In grown people, some specific distress of mind, whether real or imaginary, may suffice to resist very large doses of hypnotic. In children it is rare to find the same resistance, and comparatively small doses have a very constant effect. With deeper and more refreshing sleep, the conduct of the child during the day almost always changes for the better. A sound sleep, for a few nights in succession, will produce apparently quite a remarkable change in the whole disposition of the child. When good temper and interest take the place of fretfulness and restlessness, we may confidently expect that the symptom of sleeplessness will begin to abate. Sleeplessness by night and fretfulness by day form a vicious circle, and attempts must be made to break it at all points.
Chloral occupies the first place as a hypnotic for young children. In combination with bromide its effects are wonderfully constant and certain. Two grains of chloral hydrate and two grains of potassium bromide with ten minims of syrup of orange, given just before bedtime, will bring sound sleep to a child of a year old. At three years the dose may be twice as great, and three times at six years. It is seldom that other means are required. Aspirin for children seems relatively without effect. For children who are both sleepless and feverish, a grain of Dover’s powder, and a grain of antipyrin, for each year of the child’s age up to three, is very helpful. Lastly, if chloral and bromide cannot break the insomnia, and the condition of the child is becoming distressing, we can almost always succeed if we combine the prescription with an ordinary hot pack for twenty minutes.
SOME OTHER SIGNS OF NERVOUSNESS
Next to refusal of food and refusal of sleep perhaps the most frequent manifestation of nervous unrest is provided by the group of symptoms which we may call, with a certain latitude of expression, Habit Spasms. By a habit spasm is meant the constant repetition of an action which was originally designed to produce some one definite result, but which has become involuntary, habitual, and separated from its original meaning. The nervous cough forms a good