How To Use Sleep Medications Safely? Helpful Tips To Remember Update 07/2024

Insomnia is commonly treated with sleep medications. When used properly, they can help you relax and drift off to sleep on those nights when you’re having trouble getting to sleep.

The use of sleep aids can lead to dangerous practices, according to recent studies. You can limit the likelihood of unpleasant side effects by consulting with a doctor and recognizing the risks connected with sleep drugs.

What Should You Take Into Consideration Before Taking a Sleep Medication?

Insomnia therapy involves more than just taking a sleeping pill. The American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advise against taking pharmacological sleep aids because of the potential for addiction and the potential for negative effects.

CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) is the standard first-line treatment for insomnia. Stress, anxiety, or other emotions that are interfering with your sleep can be addressed with the assistance of your doctor. They can also help you develop good sleep hygiene practices that will last a long time. That so, a brief course of pharmacological sleep aids may help some people build these good habits and learn to manage sleeplessness.
Sleeping Pill Side Effects: Are They Bad? – Cleveland Clinic

There are many sleep disorders and medical conditions that go misdiagnosed. It is possible to identify these issues by conducting a sleep study or other testing, which may necessitate additional treatment.

What Precautions Are Important When Taking Sleep Medications for the First Time?

A new drug should always be discussed with your doctor first. Over-the-counter sleep aids and herbal supplements have their own set of possible dangers. You can determine if the advantages outweigh the hazards by having an in-depth conversation with a medical professional.

Choosing a Sleep Aid

Sleep aids come in a wide variety of forms. In order to guarantee that the prescribed sleep aid does not interact with any present pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, or herbal treatments, your doctor will take note of any existing mental or physical health issues you may have. Make sure you are not allergic to any substances in the sleep aid before purchasing it.

Using a variety of sleep aids can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, or prevent overnight awakenings. A short-acting or long-acting sleep aid will be prescribed by your doctor based on your specific needs. Experts recommend using the smallest feasible dose to minimize possible negative effects. If you suffer from a sleep issue that may be treated with a certain sort of sleep aid, your doctor will also take this into consideration.

How to Safely Start Treatment

In the event that your doctor prescribes a sleep aid, it is important that you read the patient information leaflet, follow your doctor’s dosage instructions, and ask any questions you may have. Prior to a significant occasion, it is best to postpone commencing therapy to avoid unforeseen negative effects from medicine.

Most sleep aids are made to work for four to eight hours at the most. Taking a medication to help you wake up early can leave you feeling groggy the next day. To help those who have difficulty falling or staying asleep, a short-acting sleep medication may be more suited.

Taking sleeping drugs before driving or performing other tasks that require your entire attention is generally discouraged by experts. As a caregiver, you may have to get up in the middle of the night to care for someone who is reliant on you. When taking a sleep aid, it should be taken right before going to bed to avoid interfering with nighttime activities. Remember that some sleeping medicines may take longer to take effect if taken with food.

What To Do if You Have Problems With Your Sleeping Pills

Take your medication as prescribed for at least a few nights before increasing or decreasing the dosage without consulting your physician beforehand. Rebound insomnia can occur if sleep medicines are abruptly discontinued too soon. Your doctor can help you safely stop taking the drug if you detect any negative effects or if you have any other concerns.

Following up with your doctor after a few weeks is highly recommended if your doctor has given sleeping drugs on a long-term basis. Your doctor may alter your dosage or prescribe you a new drug if the current one isn’t working.

Is It Safe To Take Sleeping Pills Every Night?

Sleep aids should not be taken on a long-term basis, according to the majority of experts. Short-term stressors, jet lag, and other sleep disorders are best treated with sleeping medications. Using sleep aids for longer than four weeks isn’t supported by a lot of research, but some studies have established a link between regular use of sleep aids and an increased mortality risk. Sleep aids may also change the stages of sleep, which might have an impact on the quality of your sleep.

Tolerance to sleep aids is a common problem for many people, which means that they require increasing doses of the drug to achieve the same results. Rebound sleeplessness, anxiety, anger, and weird nightmares are all possible side effects of this.

Doctors may prescribe you a regular dose of prescription sleeping medication if you have insomnia that is resistant to other treatments. Doctors may prescribe these long-term sleep aids for only a few evenings a week in order to reduce the danger of tolerance or addiction. The long-term use of over-the-counter sleep aids is not recommended.

Are Sleeping Pills Safe?

It’s not uncommon for folks to take sleeping drugs without experiencing any negative side effects at all. Some sleep aids have adverse effects, such as next-day grogginess, nausea, and headaches, that are not uncommon. Low doses can help prevent some of these negative effects. In addition, doctors advise patients to avoid using sleep aids the night before important decisions are to be made.
Effects of Mixing Sleeping Pills & Alcohol

Occasionally, you may suffer more significant consequences. If you experience any of the following symptoms, see your doctor immediately:

  • Even if you only took sleep aids for a short period of time, you may experience a brief spell of insomnia when you stop taking them. Most doctors advise patients to progressively reduce their prescription dosages in order to wean themselves off the drug.
  • Driving while drowsy is an example of complex sleep behavior that may be induced by some sleep medicines. You may experience these side effects for the first time after using the sleep aid, or you may not experience them at all. It is extremely perilous to engage in complex sleep behaviors, which can result in death or major injury. If you’re having trouble sleeping, see a doctor right away.
  • When taking sleeping medications alongside alcohol, opiates, antidepressants, or antihistamines, extreme caution should be exercised. Slow breathing and possibly death can result from the combination of two or more medicines that depress the central nervous system. When there is no other option, the FDA recommends clinicians use these combinations.

Certain sleep aids can cause psychosis, respiratory and circulation problems, and even death if taken in excess.

Who Should Be Extra Careful When Taking Sleep Aids?

There may be increased hazards for those with other medical illnesses, people who are taking other prescriptions at the same time, and persons with health ailments such renal disease, liver problems or low blood pressure.

Women and the elderly typically require lesser amounts of medication since they have a slower metabolism. Pregnant women are often advised not to take sleep aids because of the lack of data on their effects when pregnant or breastfeeding. There is some evidence that they may be harmful to an unborn child.

The elderly are more susceptible to side effects and falls, thus caution should be exercised when taking sleep drugs to avoid alertness and balance issues. Dementia may also be caused by some sleep aids.

There are very few research on the use of sleep medications in children, and the majority of specialists advise against their usage.

What Is the Safest Sleep Aid?

There is a general consensus that newer sleep medicines are safer than older ones. For each person, the safest sleep aid will depend on their age, health, and other personal variables:

  • One of the most addictive sleep aids is benzodiazepines, despite their widespread use. Because most people soon become accustomed to their effects, they are not frequently prescribed long-term.
  • Unlike benzodiazepines, newer Z medicines have a more favorable side effect profile and a lower potential of misuse, making them a better option for treating anxiety and insomnia. Z medications have been found to be more likely to trigger complicated sleep patterns, according to the FDA.
  • With orexin receptor antagonists, the risk of dependence is lower than with other medications, according to research. As of yet, somnolence appears to be the most common side effect of this brand-new sleeping pill.
  • For sleep, antidepressants may produce headaches and daytime sleepiness. There are fewer negative effects from the lower doses of antidepressants often recommended for insomnia. As with bipolar disorder, antidepressants may worsen sleeplessness in some people.
  • Barbiturates, which were once widely used, have been found to be habit-forming and dangerously addictive. These should only be used in extremely particular circumstances, according to the FDA.
  • Antihistamines are the most common active ingredient in over-the-counter sleep aids. Research suggests that antihistamines may cause poor sleep quality and next-day drowsiness in the majority of persons.
  • One of the safest sleep aids on the market, melatonin has very few adverse effects. Ramelteon is a prescription medication that mimics the effects of melatonin. It’s not habit-forming, and it doesn’t mess with your circadian rhythm like melatonin does.

The lack of a prescription makes many individuals believe that over-the-counter sleep aids are the most secure option for getting a good night’s sleep. However, the use of over-the-counter sleep aids may still pose a risk. It’s also possible that unapproved drugs and herbal supplements may pose additional dangers. Consult a doctor before taking over-the-counter or natural sleep aids.

6 Safety Tips for Taking Sleeping Pills for Insomnia

1. Allow enough time for a full night’s sleep

Sleep aids are only effective if you give yourself adequate time to sleep each night.

Adding grogginess when people first wake up is not what she wants, she says. “We’re looking for them to assist people fall asleep.” Most sleep aids recommend eight hours of sleep, so I advise patients to make sure they’re getting enough of it.

2. Don’t try sleeping pills before a big day

On a night when you won’t have to get up early, drive, or make crucial decisions the next day, Dr. Vensel-Rundo recommends using a sleep aid.

You’re more likely to have extreme morning sleepiness if you take a bigger dose than planned or if you don’t get adequate sleep. To be more specific, it’s possible that when you’re asleep you may converse on the phone or send emails or SMS.

Sleep aids make you drowsier, but being drowsy all day is a terrible thing. Dr. Vensel-Rundo explains that “sleep aids function by activating the sleep areas in the brain and turning off the wake centers,” he says. A good night’s sleep should help you get to sleep and stay asleep for a longer period of time, but it shouldn’t knock you out. It’s important to let your doctor know if you’re having trouble waking up in the morning.

When Someone You Love Is a Sleepwalker, Here’s What to Do.

3. Be on the lookout for side effects

Sleep aids can temporarily worsen depression if you have a history of it. Although it is conceivable, adverse symptoms such as headaches and nausea are rare.

Dr. Vensel-Rundo believes the drugs also help with anxiety relief and muscle relaxation.

If you’ve ever been drowsy or had hallucinations, you’re more likely to do so now, she says. Clouded- or foggy-thought processes are commonly referred to as this. “Sleep intoxication” is what we call it.

4. Only take pills for a short time

For two to four weeks, Dr. Vensel-Rundo advises her patients to use a sleep aid every night. Taking the drug only when you need it, say three evenings a week if you require it for a longer period of time is recommended if you need more aid.
Why Sleeping Pills and Alcohol Are a Dangerous Mix

For now, she says, “there aren’t many long-term studies, so we don’t know the implications of long-term use of sleep aids. “There have been some complaints of memory and coordination issues with various aids.”

This is especially harmful for the elderly, who are already at an increased risk of falling due to medicines.

5. Don’t stop taking a sleep aid suddenly

Rebound insomnia, or more severe sleep deprivation, can occur within three to four days of sudden cessation. Even short-term use can cause rebound insomnia in certain patients.

Doctor Vensel-Rundo recommends gently weaning yourself off over a period of days or weeks. Reduce the dosage of a sleep aid you take nightly for a week or two. Until you no longer require the medication, keep following this pattern. If you’re currently taking the lowest dose, stop taking it one night a week and gradually reduce the number of nights you take it.

6. Seek help if over-the-counter sleep aids aren’t working

Nearly half of all Americans say they suffer from sleeplessness from time to time. Every night, more than a quarter of people have difficulty sleeping. Adults over the age of 65 are more likely than men to be affected than women.

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