Sleep Aids: What You Need to Know

mentalmedication It is 2:00 a.m. and you are staring at the ceiling. Youcheck the clock every 5 minutes to calculate how much sleep youcan squeeze in before the alarm jolts you awake. You have tried warmmilk and relaxation tapes, yet you are still wide-awake. Should youtake a sleeping pill? If this sounds like your nightly routine, take heart. Insomnia affects millions of people, and sleep aids and other remediesclaiming to solve the problem are plentiful. What is the best courseof action and how do you know if sleeping pills or other sleeppreparations are safe enough for regular use?

Talk to Your Doctor First

Before taking an over-the-counter sleep aid, talk to yourdoctor. Some sleep aids are not safe for everyone. Talking to your doctor may also help you find the triggers that keep you up at night and help you find a solution that works. Keepin mind that insomnia not only results in considerable nighttimedistress for the insomnia sufferer, it is associated with next-dayimpairment, and may even have effects on health and mood.What works for your neighbor may not work for you. Insomnia treatments may be short or long term, depending on your problem. It is important to know what options are available so you can minimize any effects on your sleeping patterns.


Sleeping pills are available over-the-counter and byprescription. Use these tips when considering the use of sleepaids:
  • Take the medication exactly as prescribed.
  • Try the medication only after you have tried changing yourbehavior.
  • Use the lowest possible effective dose.
  • Do not automatically take a pill every night. Use the medicationonly when you must have an uninterrupted night of sleep. Even then, it is a good idea to take sleeping pills only a few times per week at the most.

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

Many over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamines, whileothers contain the hormone melatonin. Sleep aids containing antihistamines are common. They includemedications, such as Tylenol PM , Nytol , and Unisom , among others.Some people take a pure antihistamine drug, such as Benadryl , tohelp them fall asleep. The main problem with these remedies isknown as the hangover effect. The next morning you mayfeel sluggish, sleepy, or have difficulty performing dailytasks. In some people, antihistimines have the opposite effect, which keeps them awake.Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted in the brain and helpsour bodies regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is sold as adietary supplement, rather than as a medication and is thereforenot subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration for standards of potency and purity, so proceed with caution. There is some research that supports that melatonin may help treat jet lag. If you decide to try melatonin, talk to your doctor.

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