What are sleep aids and are they for me?
If you’re regularly struggling to get some shut-eye, sleep aids are medicines that can help you sleep. While there are many natural things you can do to improve your sleep, such as exercising, reducing caffeine in your diet, healthy sleep hygeine, and not looking at laptop or phone screens before bed, sleep aids may sometimes be prescribed to help you sleep if nothing else will work.
I can’t sleep and think I need a sleep aid. What should I do?
You need to take some precautions before taking any sleep aid. Here are the steps to take:
- First off, talk to your doctor. There are some over-the-counter sleep aids that don’t require a prescription from your doctor, but it's always good to check in with them, as many over-the-counter sleep aids may interfere with other medicines or conditions.
- There are certain sleep aids that won’t be suitable for people with certain medical conditions. Make sure to look into this.
- Sleep aids generally aren’t intended for long-term use. Make sure to only use any sleep aid for a short period of time, and regularly check in with your doctor to check up on your progress.
- Never drink alcohol with sleep aids. This can be dangerous.
- Take note of the side effects.
What kinds of sleep aids are out there?
Benzodiazepines. These are a sedative drug sometimes referred to as ‘benzos’, that are used to treat sleeping problems and anxiety. These are one of the older, prescription sleep aids. If your sleeping problems are being caused by anxiety, these may be prescribed to you. They may be more likely to cause addiction or dependency problems, so make sure you discuss them carefully with your doctor before taking them. It is recommended that Benzodiazepines are only used in exceptional circumstances and not longer than two weeks.
Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. These are a newer kind of sedative drug.
Antidepressants. Antidepressants are generally prescribed for depression and anxiety but some could also prescribed for sleep problems.
Diphenhydramine, doxylamine (antihistamines). These are often used to treat allergies, but also make you sleepy, so can be used to treat sleep problems. They’re not always as helpful as other sleep aids, and can cause drowsiness the next day.