Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Useful Tips About Sleep Aids

Prescription Sleeping Pills
Non-Benzodiazepines, including zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zaleplon (Sonata), are among the most commonly prescribed sleep aids in the U.S. Classified as “hypnotic” or “sedative” drugs, non-benzodiazepines shorten the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, and help you stay asleep through the night.

Never take a hypnotic sleep aid without at least eight hours to devote to sleep, advises Donna Arand, PhD, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. Don’t reach for one of these drugs at 3:00 a.m. if you need to be sharp and alert by 8:00 a.m. Some sleep aids are active for only a few hours; but unless you know how you will respond, it is better to be cautious when taking them.

Hypnotic sleeping pills can also have a longer-lasting “hangover” effect the older you are. Eszopiclone has a longer half-life than zolpidem and zaleplon, meaning it takes about seven hours to start processing out of an average woman’s system, in many cases, and has a higher likelihood of making you feel groggy long into the next day. Still, any prescription sleep aid can make you feel a little fuzzy in the morning.

While these sleeping pills are less addicting than benzodiazepines (see below), they are not recommended for use beyond a couple of weeks. Non-benzodiazepines can still be habit forming, so proceed with caution.

Benzodiazepines, including lorazepam (Ativan) triazolam (Halcion) and temazepam (Restoril) were commonly prescribed in the 70s and 80s. Sometimes abbreviated as “benzos,” these pills are powerfully effective in helping people fall and stay asleep, yet can impede sustained deep sleep, and may result in fogginess, headaches and fatigue the next day. Classified as sedatives, they work well for people with serious anxiety, but should only be taken while under medical supervision. Because of a high risk for addiction, many doctors now steer clear of prescribing benzos.

Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills
Over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills are less powerful than prescription varieties, but they can help you beat occasional insomnia. They all rely on antihistamines, like doxylamine (Unisom and Medi-Sleep) and diphenhydramine (Sominex and Simply Sleep), to induce drowsiness. You can also find these ingredients in many cold medicines and a host of OTC pain relievers.

Dr. Esther says that OTC sleep aids can help you fall asleep easily, but they may lead to a dry mouth, a dry nose or a groggy feeling long into the next day because the antihistamine ingredient takes awhile to cycle through the body. They should never be taken with alcohol, prescription sleeping medications or antidepressants since their effects can be intensified to a dangerous level when mixed.

Sleep Supplements
Melatonin is a fairly wellknown supplement used to improve sleep. It helps regulate your “sleep clock,” which signals the brain when it’s time for sleep. It’s often recommended to overcome jetlag or recover from a disrupted sleep schedule. But if taken incorrectly–too much or at the wrong time–it can further disrupt your sleep schedule, so follow instructions carefully.

 Made from Griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a supplement that helps boost serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, controls appetite and regulates sleep. It may be especially effective for people who can’t fall asleep due to anxiety and stress.

While supplements may make it easier to fall asleep, they may not keep you asleep throughout the night.

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