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Why Sleep Medication Should Be a Last Resort Only

Many people who have trouble falling asleep an night or staying asleep throughout the night often turn to either prescription or over-the-counter sleep medication and sleeping pills to help them get a full night’s sleep. 

In fact, medication for snoring has become incredibly popular in recent times, and you can find hundreds of different brands of sleeping pills and other sleep aids in most any pharmacy or online. The only problem with this is that many people are starting to use this medication on an almost nightly basis.

While many doctors may prescribe or recommend sleep medication for their patients, this medicine is only meant to be taken sparingly, on a need basis. They are great for some situations, such as a long flight or getting over jet lag, but they are not meant to be taken every day

If a person consistently has trouble falling asleep, then they are most likely suffering from some form of insomnia, and sleep medication will do nothing to alleviate the underlying causes of their condition. In fact, they may actually make the insomnia worse, and make the body think it cannot sleep without the chemicals in the sleeping medicine.

Sleep Medication Problems and Side Effects

sleep medicationDoctors and sleep specialists have expressed many concerns about the growing sleep aid market and the damage it can do not only to a person’s regular sleeping patterns, but their body and overall health as well. Here are some of the major problems associated with sleeping pills, both prescribed and over-the-counter:

  • Dependence

Some sleeping medication contain strong hypnotics and relaxants that can, like any other drug, cause a person’s body to grow dependent on the drug. With sleeping medicine, this means that a person may not be able to sleep and may not even become tired without medicine.

  • Withdrawals

In line with dependence comes withdrawal. If a person’s body becomes dependent on any drug, even a mild sleeping aid, then they may experience withdrawals when they stop taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can include extreme irritability and an inability to fall asleep.

  • Tolerance

Another common problem with sleeping pills is that the body will start to develop a tolerance to the chemicals in the pills, meaning you will have to take larger and larger doses for them to continue to have the same effect. This can flood your body with chemicals that could cause liver damage and other issues.

  • Worsening Insomnia

Since sleeping pills do nothing to combat the causes of insomnia, they can often cause the problem to become much worse. This is why it is important to treat the mental or physiological problems at the root of the insomnia to have any hope of ever curing it. In some cases, there could be a serious mental health issue that is causing the condition, so it is important to treat the root cause and not the symptoms. Sleeping pills simply mask the insomnia.

  • sleep medicationInteractions with other medication

Sleeping pills can sometimes negatively interact with other medicine a person is taking and cause severe, even life-threatening problems. This is especially true if a person is taking any prescription painkillers, muscle relaxers, or other sedatives. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting to take any sleeping pill, even over-the-counter products.

  • Side Effects

There are many different side effects associated with sleeping aids. While feeling groggy and tired the next day is by far the most common side effect, there are many others, including forgetfulness, dizziness, loss of balance, blurred vision, headaches, lack of concentration, confusion, muscle and joint aches, and constipation. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should probably consult a doctor and stop taking the medication immediately, as sometimes, although rarely, the side effect may be a symptom of a more serious medical problem.

Prescription sleeping medicine, especially benzodiazepines, can also cause more serious side effects such as hallucinations, memory lapses, and severe allergic reactions, including swelling of the hands, feet, or face.

  • Sleeping Pills and Abnormal Sleep Behavior

Sometimes sleeping pills, especially prescription pills, can lead to different types of abnormal sleep behavior, such as sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep driving - often caused by episodes of microsleep - and night terrors, all of which can have very serious consequences. 

Chemical Composition of Sleeping Pills

sleep medicationIt is important to know what is in any pills before you decide to put it into your body, which will hopefully prevent you from experiencing any allergic reactions or the drug negatively interacting with any other medication you are taking. 

The majority of over-the-counter sleeping aids contain an antihistamine as their main active ingredient. Antihistamines are traditionally taken for allergies, however they are also useful in sleep aids because histamine is a chemical that gives energy and makes your body alert and awake, so an antihistamine will block this chemical and cause you to become sleepy. Some OTC sleep aids combine an antihistamine with other chemicals to further promote sleepiness.

 

When looking at prescription sleeping pills, there are two major groups: those containing benzodiazepines and those without. Benzodiazepines are a group of sedative and hypnotic drugs that are most commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, and they come with a very high risk for dependence. The body also quickly develops a tolerance to them, so higher dosages are constantly required.

 

Non-benzodiazepine sleeping aids are a fairly new thing, and while not nearly as researched, they do seem to have less risk for dependency and tolerance. They stimulate the same parts of the brain as the benzodiazepines, but have many less drawbacks and side effects. Some have even been approved for longer term use (up to 6 months), although many doctors are still debating these claims and whether or not they are any better for the body than the drugs containing benzodiazepines.

In conclusion, before reaching to medicine for sleeping problems, whether it be snoring, somnolence, insomnia, sleep apnea or any other type of sleep disorder, you should look for ways to improve your sleep that are completely natural and that you can practice from the comfort of your own bedroom. 

Especially certain techniques like belly breathing and progressive relaxation training immediately spring to mind. They will help you to calm down naturally and be more mindful of your own body. Often, these techniques can be just as powerful as taking medicine. Medication should always be the final solution!


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