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Sleeping pills work by calming you down, but they don’t cure insomnia. They are helpful for people who can’t fall asleep on their own. But while you may be tempted to reach for a pill when you’re feeling tired, you should only consider prescription sleep aids if other sleep hygiene behaviors aren’t helping. Your doctor might recommend prescription sleep aids if your insomnia is not caused by an underlying medical condition. If it’s related to depression or another psychiatric condition, talk to your doctor about how sleeping pills might affect these conditions.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is still the best treatment for persistent insomnia. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors. Regular exercise, a regular bedtime, avoiding caffeine and daytime naps, and managing stress are just some things that can help. Sometimes the addition of prescription sleeping pills can help, but most of the time, they aren’t necessary.
To be sure, prescription medication for sleep is no guarantee of success. Be sure to discuss any potential risks or side effects with your doctor before taking a new sleep aid.
Types of Prescription Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are commonly referred to as “sleeping pills” because they induce sleep. There are two different types of sleeping pills. Some are designed to induce sleep quickly and others will not work until after 12 hours have passed.
There are a few generic names for common sleep aids including Ambien, Serax, Restoril, and others. Sleeping aids also come in branded names like Adderall and Lunesta.
It’s possible to fall asleep easier with a prescription sleeping pill, but your doctor should always be there to guide you toward the right medication.
To do so, he will typically do the following:
- Of course, the first step for your doctor is to understand your sleep patterns by asking you a series of questions.
- He may order tests to make sure that there are no underlying conditions that are making it hard for you to sleep.
- Your doctor will eventually discuss the medication options that are available, such as pills, oral spray, or dissolving tablets, and how often and when to take them.
Types of Over-The-Counter Sleeping Pills
OTC sleeping pills can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. For most people, they’ll work just fine. Some of the most popular OTC sleeping aids are:
Diphenhydramine is a non-sedating antihistamine that can be used as an adjunct in the management of allergic rhinitis or common cold (e.g., cough). It is generally used as needed when the underlying cause is seasonal allergy-related rhinorrhea or conjunctivitis, or as a treatment for allergic rhinitis during the allergy season. Diphenhydramine may also be used to treat the symptoms of a viral respiratory infection, such as influenza.
Diphenhydramine can also be used as a sleep aid. The most common side effects are drowsiness and dry mouth. It is not recommended for use in children younger than 8 years due to the risk of sedation.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps your body clock and adjust to night and day cycles. It’s found in the body in much smaller amounts than other hormones like estrogen and progesterone. It helps the body release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. In small amounts, melatonin has been shown to help relieve depression and anxiety. It may also help with sleep disorders.
It’s important to avoid taking too much because it can cause drowsiness or, less often, trouble sleeping. The supplement may also cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, or drowsiness during the day.
Doxylamine is used to treat insomnia or sleep disorders that cause excessive daytime sleepiness. It is also used to treat symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) including sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose. This medication may be available as a tablet, capsule, or liquid.
Valerian is an herb and is also known as officinalis. It can be found growing wild throughout the world and is part of the Fabaceae family. This plant contains over 75 chemicals which are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
A number of studies suggest that valerian may be effective in treating insomnia. In one clinical trial, valerian was given in doses ranging from 300 to 600 milligrams for two to four weeks. The higher doses were significantly more effective than lower doses in reducing sleep onset latency and increasing total sleep time. Another study tested the herb’s effectiveness over 12 weeks. Participants took 800 or 1200 milligrams of valerian twice daily, and the higher dose was significantly better than the lower dose in promoting sleep.
How Effective Are Sleeping Pills?
Sleeping medications have side effects and may not work well with other drugs. If your doctor prescribes sleeping pills to help you sleep, tell your pharmacist about all of the medications you take and ask if there is another way to help you get a good night’s sleep. You also can make simple changes to your lifestyle to improve your sleep patterns.
While all sleep aids can help you relax, there’s no pill that works on all people, so you have to find something that works for you. If you are having trouble falling asleep, it may be helpful to take a dose of melatonin to help you sleep naturally, but a lot of people report that they feel groggy in the morning with this. A good alternative is an herbal remedy called “Kava Kava”.
Other drugs that you may take for other reasons may also help you sleep. Your doctor may suggest other sleep aids, such as antihistamines or anti-anxiety medications, if these are not effective.
Side Effects of Prescription Sleeping Pills
If you take any of these medications, be sure to follow the instructions that come with them. You may need to take them for several weeks before you feel any benefit. You may experience side effects such as drowsiness, light-headedness, and confusion during the day.
You should always read the label on any medication you’re taking. You may find that a natural sleep aid works just as well as a medication. If you choose to use medication, talk to your doctor before you start.
Never assume that a drug has no side effects or that they are harmless. It is very important to talk to your doctor about potential side effects before you make any decisions about taking a specific medication. This is especially important when taking sleeping pills, the common side effects of which are:
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
- Joint pain
- Changes in vision
- Weight gain
- Abdominal pain
- Heart problems
If you are taking a sleeping pill for the first time, you may have an unpleasant reaction. In some cases, this reaction can last a long time. However, the reaction may go away if you stop taking the drug.
Your doctor may be able to recommend a short-term use of sleeping pills. He may also be able to recommend the right dosage of the medication for you.
Long-term use of sleeping pills, however, can cause some serious health problems. As a result, your doctor may suggest you use short-term medication instead.
Your doctor may recommend a long-term use of sleeping pills if:
- You have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or have other conditions that make it hard for you to sleep
- You have had trouble sleeping for a long time
- You have tried other medications without success
- You have been using sleeping pills for a long time
- You have a very high risk of suffering from a condition that causes excessive sleepiness
Be sure to discuss any potential risks or side effects with your doctor before taking a new sleep aid.
How to Choose a Sleeping Pill
You can find over-the-counter sleep aids, which are often called sleep medications. Most are natural substances, such as melatonin or valerian root. Others are prescription medications that you can get at your doctor’s office.
Some sleeping pills are available without a prescription. However, the same safety precautions that apply to prescription sleeping pills also apply to these non-prescription sleeping pills. The dosage of sleeping pills can be adjusted to help you sleep better.
If you are taking sleeping pills for the first time, your doctor may suggest you start with a low dose. On the whole, most people who use sleeping pills for the first time need a lower dose than people who are used to taking sleeping pills.
The best sleeping pill will depend on the underlying cause of your sleep problem. Some people are sedated and others have trouble falling asleep. A sleep aid can help with both. In general, most prescription sleep aids should be taken in the evening and the dose should gradually increase over several days. Take the prescribed dose only when you need it and at the same time each day. Check with your doctor before taking any sleeping pill. If symptoms develop after you take the first dose, call your doctor.
Sleeping pills are safe, but you should take them only when you need them. They can be effective for some people, but they can also cause side effects. Talk to your doctor about using a sleeping pill for the first time. If you’re not sure whether a sleeping pill is right for you, try it for a short time and then talk to your doctor.
Remember that sleeping pills are only one option. Other things you can do to get a good night’s sleep include:
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid caffeine, which can make it harder to fall asleep
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark
- Get regular, consistent sleep hours
- Have a good diet
- Avoid stress
- Avoid too much alcohol
If you decide to use a sleep aid, make sure you discuss any potential side effects with your doctor. If you are taking a new sleep aid for the first time, you may need to start with a low dose. The best sleep aid will depend on your underlying cause of sleep problems.