It’s the middle of the night and you’re staring at the clock. You’re thinking about your spouse, kids, bills, work—or all of the above. Your thoughts are racing, and as much as you try not to think about the fact that you can’t seem to fall asleep, it’s a source of ever-growing anxiety.
How will you wake up to take the kids to school tomorrow? Running on three or four hours of sleep, will you be able to perform at work?
Many people have difficulty sleeping at some point or another, whether for one night or many nights. If you have trouble sleeping, you should first look at your lifestyle, and factors that might be contributing to nighttime sleeplessness—including drinking too much caffeine in the day, a sedentary lifestyle, exercising before bed, or too much stress. Sometimes, though, even changing your lifestyle and day-to-day habits is not enough.
If insomnia has become a problem that regularly disrupts your ability to function, sleep aids may be able to help you. Whether it’s a prescription for sleeping pills, an over-the-counter solution, or a natural sleep aid, it’s important to consider potential risks before you decide to take something—even if it’s natural. Sleep aids may help you to sleep in the short-term, but they won’t fix an underlying problem that is causing you to lose sleep. And some sleep aids—such as sleeping pills—can result in dependence.
Prescription Sleeping Pills
Your doctor may prescribe medication in order to treat insomnia. These drugs are usually taken right before bed, and should be used along with healthy sleep habits. They’re most effective when used to treat insomnia in the short-term—for instance, when taking a flight across a time zone or recovering from a surgical procedure. When used in the long-term, they can result in drug tolerance, dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and drug interactions. They may also mask an underlying problem that is causing you to lose sleep. There are many different prescription options out there to assist. Antidepressants can also help with insomnia.
Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
Over-the-counter sleep aids are usually antihistamines which cause drowsiness. The drowsiness may last into the following day, and will be especially pronounced in the morning. They are sold without a prescription, but you should always consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking them to ensure they won’t interfere with other medication you’re taking—especially other antihistamines for colds or allergies. This can result in an overdose. Non-prescription sleep aids should not be used in the long-term, as they can cause serious side effects.
Natural and Herbal Supplements
Natural sleep aids can help improve insomnia, but you should be careful before taking these supplements, as they are unregulated by the FDA. Certain studies have indicated that herbal remedies such as valerian and trypotophan may help to improve sleep. You should always talk to a doctor before taking these remedies, as they can interact with other medication you’re taking, rendering it ineffective. Valerian, for instance, can interfere with blood pressure medication. Look into the research on any supplement you take and consult a doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking medication or concerned about any pre-existing health conditions you have before you try it.