A recent study shows that between 35-50% of all Americans have insomnia or they complain about poor sleep. Perhaps you are one of them. If you are, then you have probably already considered the idea of using sleeping pills. A sleeping pill might solve the problem on a short term but this doesn’t mean that it will be effective on a long term. You need to make sure that you know everything about sleeping pills before you start using one, including information on side effects and possible complications. We know that we can help you avoid the misuse of these sedatives so check out this article, as it will answer all your questions.
- What are sleeping pills?
Sleeping pills are mostly classified as ‘’sedative hypnotics’’. Sedative hypnotics represent a specific class of drugs used to induce or maintain sleep. This class of drugs includes benzodiazepines, barbiturates and various hypnotics.
Benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium and Librium among others. These are all anti-anxiety medications that also increase the drowsiness, thus helping people sleep. What you need to understand about benzodiazepines is that they are quite old medicines that have been replaced with newer ones. These drugs are useful for the short-term treatment of sleep problems but they are potentially addictive and they can cause memory and attention problems. This is why doctors don’t prefer them for long-term sleep treatments.
Barbiturates work by depressing the central nervous system, thus causing sedation. These drugs can be fatal in overdose so if you are prescribed one to get rid of your sleep problems, make sure that you respect the doctor’s indications in detail. Compared to benzodiazepines, barbiturates are less likely to be habit forming but they sometimes cause physical dependence.
Given the fact that most benzodiazepines can cause addiction, we prefer barbiturates for the treatment of sleep problems. Here is a short introduction to some of the pills we consider to be a good choice for you.
Lunesta- this is a sleeping aid that helps you fall asleep quickly. However, keep in mind that Lunesta offers you the possibility to sleep 7-8 hours without interruption. If you know that you have less than 7-8 hours at your disposal for sleep, then don’t take this sleeping aid as it causes grogginess. Since there is a risk of impairment the next day, the FDA recommends the staring dose of Lunesta to be no more than 1mg.
Rozerem- this is a sleeping aid that works completely different from all the other sleeping aids that we prefer. What is different about it? Rozerem targets the sleep-wake cycle but not by depressing the central nervous system. This sleeping aid is usually a good choice for people who have difficulties in falling asleep and it can be used long-term as it hasn’t shown evidence of abuse or dependence.
Sonata- this sleeping aid is among our list of favorites because out of all the new sleeping aids now available on the market, Sonata stays active in the body for the shortest period of time. In simpler words, you can use Sonata to fall asleep without the fear of side effects the next day. You won’t feel drowsy in the morning but the big problem about Sonata is that you might tend to wake during the night.
Silenor- doctors recommend Silenor to people who have trouble staying asleep. Sleep maintenance will be improved with the help of Silenor as this drug blocks histamine receptors. You should only get this drug if you are able to get a full seven or eight hours of sleep. Since dosage is based on your age, your overall health state and your body’s response to treatment, follow the doctor’s instructions.
Natural sleep aids
If you crave a good night’s sleep but you are not ready to use prescription sleep medications just yet, natural sleep aids might work. All you can do is to try them and decide on your own whether or not they really work. We’ve done some research and we have come across the same names. Here they are.
Valerian- this is a dietary supplement used to treat insomnia and nervousness since ancient times. Many people use valerian as a sleep aid but what you need to know is that its efficiency hasn’t been proved yet. Numerous doctor’s don’t even recommend valerian to their patients but if you choose to try this dietary supplement, don’t combine it with other medications or supplements.
Chamomile- just like valerian, chamomile is a traditional herb remedy used since ancient times. Chamomile can be found on the market under the form of tea, topical ointment or extract and it is widely available in food stores and supermarkets. Even though chamomile’s effectiveness hasn’t been widely tested in humans, animal studies have shown a safe and mild sleep aid.
Melatonin- this is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Medicine says that melatonin is responsible for playing a central role in regulating circadian rhythms and sleep. Synthetic melatonin is now available on the market and it has actually become a very popular supplements, used mainly as antioxidant and as a sleeping aid. Even though it hasn’t proved effective in treating insomnia and improving sleep quality on long term, it seems to work on a short term.
Natural sleep aids: CBT
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it describes a variety of therapies that can modify thought patterns, as well as behavior patterns. CBT is more and more widely used to treat insomnia, depression, eating disorders and phobias. When used for insomnia problems, CBT helps patients alter thoughts and behaviors that disrupt sleep and thus trigger insomnia. CBT programs for insomnia can include therapies such as:
• Sleep hygiene– this helps patients improve their daily sleep habits by encouraging them to go to sleep and wake up at the same hours
• Stimulus control– this helps patients make calming, relaxing, sleep inducing associations with their bed and bedroom
• Sleep restriction– the sleep efficiency can be improved if you limit the number of hours spent in bed
• Cognitive therapy– this helps patients counter misconceptions and the negative thoughts that keep them awake
• Relaxation techniques– muscle relaxation, imagery, deep breathing, meditation
• Biofeedback– patients identify and then learn to control psychological factors that can trigger insomnia
Possible side effects of sleeping aids
Sleeping pills are medications and, like most medications, they can cause side effects. However, you won’t know whether you will experience any side effects with a particular sleeping aid until you actually try it. You might not experience side effects at all but it is best for you to be alerted and well aware of what can happen if your body actually gets affected by them. The possibility of side effects is at an increased level if you suffer from asthma, a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or any other health condition. Common side effects may include:
• Burning in the hands, arms, feet or legs
• Appetite changes
• Drowsiness, especially in the morning
• Balance issues
• Dry mouth
• Dry throat
• Impairment the next day
• Attention problems
• Memory problems
• Mental slowing problems
• Unusual dreams
• Stomach pain or tenderness
• Uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body