Sleep Aids: Awesome or Addictive?

Why are Sleep Aids Such a Huge Industry?

Think about it: Is there anything more terrible than being exhausted, knowing that you have to wake up in a few hours, and are still unable to fall asleep?  What kind of twisted trick is nature pulling on us when this happens?  It would be so much easier if our brains could just tell our bodies what to do.  Enter sleep aids, our pharmaceutical answer to insomnia.

Alas, at least for me, my mind control doesn’t extend to ordering my body (and brain) to shut down and fall asleep.  However, since we live in the age of quick fixes, many people choose to rely on sleep aids to get them that elusive rest.  Do I use them?  No.  My personality is EXTREMELY addictive.  Some examples of what I’ve been addicted to?  Cigarettes, watermelon, crunchy tacos, baby oil lotion, the list goes on and on.  The only reason why I’m not in rehab is because I know that once I start something (like sleeping pills) that may be slightly addictive, I won’t stop.  But, don’t let my shortcomings preclude you from benefiting from the miracles of modern science, and from getting a complete night’s sleep.

The fact is that modern over the counter (OTC) sleep aids are very safe, and don’t foster addiction in normal people.  They are mostly antihistamines (like traditional allergy medicines), and are harmless to use for a short amount of time.  Of course, everything has side effects, but if you weigh some dry mouth with not sleeping for two days, dry mouth doesn’t seem that bad.  There are also natural supplement type aids, such as melatonin and valerian.

Info About Sleep Aids

  • Everyone recommends that you speak with your doctor before starting any new pill, even the OTC ones.  Do this especially if you are taking other medications, or have a chronic illness.
  • Follow directions.  Follow the dosage information, and only use it for the time period specified.  They aren’t long term solutions.  If you are still having problems sleeping after two weeks, you may have a more serious medical problem, and should see your doctor.
  • Your body builds up resistance to antihistamines when used continuously.  This means that the sleeping pill will not be effective after a while.  See your doctor.  Seriously.
  • Some sleep aids can make you wake up groggy or still tired.  Not all pills have the same active ingredients.
  • Melatonin and valerian are also available OTC, and are considered supplements.  These also have side effects, and can interfere with other medications, so check with your doctor.
  • Don’t take any of these pills with alcohol, or use before driving, or taking a bath or shower.  Alcohol can react with the chemicals in the pill, and can have deadly results.  Furthermore, alcohol actually impedes good sleep.  As for driving or bathing, the whole point of sleeping pills is to make you drowsy.  Falling asleep at the wheel usually ends up in an accident, and falling asleep while bathing usually ends up in drowning or falling down.  Just take the pill, and lay down in your nice, safe bed.

If you need something stronger, don’t be afraid to go to your doctor for a prescription medication.  Just make sure that you’re following dosage instructions, and that you only use them for as long as you need them.

My final point is that sometimes insomnia is a symptom of something else.  Not necessarily disease (although that is a possibility), but maybe something else that’s easily fixed.  Try changing things around: decrease caffeine, increase physical activity (but not before bed), try some meditation before bed time.  If your mind is racing, try to write all of your thoughts down, or find out the source of the stress in your life.  Stop taking naps in the daytime, get yourself on a regular sleep-wake schedule.  And finally…wait for it…maybe your insomnia is because your mattress is uncomfortable.  You can get better, undisturbed sleep on a new mattress such as a Comforpedic.

Sleep aids can help you sleep better, wake up refreshed, and get over the hump of insomnia.  Just be aware of your usage, and if your problem is deeper than just not being able to sleep for a night or two.