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.

A Middle-Aged Sleep Problem: 9 Ways to Fix Your Night Life

I write about sleep a lot.  I think about sleep a lot.  I don’t get enough sleep, a lot.  I usually base my research and posts about either children, or retirement aged people, and tend to ignore my own sleep problem demographic, the thirty to fifty crowd, but no more!  Here’s how it started:

Toddler Sleep ProblemsToday, I was waiting for my 3-year old to wake up from his nap.  It was about time for him to get up, so I let myself do some noisy chores, like the dishes, in hopes that he would wake up.  Every few minutes, I’d check on him, and he’d still be sleeping soundly.  I even went into his room to clean, and he slept right through it.  As I sat on the edge of his bed, dreading the impending crankiness at being awoken, I realized that this kid is getting great quality sleep, and I’m getting next to nothing.  I’ll admit it, I’m jealous of my toddler.

I have always assumed, like many of you, that as we get older, our sleep quality decreases.  I think I’ve even written posts and articles on the topic.  However, there was an article in the LA Times last year that states that if you weed out illness, the sleep you get in your middle age and older is the same as what you got as a kid.  Impossible, I say!

So I did some more research, and found evidence for both sides of the argument.  As we get into our thirties, our sleep is disrupted by work (yes), social events (yes), and children (triple yes).  If we can manage those areas of our lives, then we can get that sound sleep that we enjoyed in our youth, and can stop feeling like zombies all day.  It really is possible.

Some doctors and other experts still believe that our quality and quantity of sleep deteriorate as we get older, due to less melatonin production.  Combine this with the higher instances of illness and stress, and it’s a natural assertion that sleep will suffer.

What can you do?  I’ve given this list a million times, but here it is again with some additions:

  1. If you have kids that disrupt your sleep, figure out how to make them sleep better.  I’m a horrible example, because even at 3, my son is still not sleeping through the night, but I know that it is possible, I’ve heard stories.  It will make everyone more pleasant in the morning, apparently…
  2. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every Frazzled Sleep Problemsmorning.  This may mean changing your Girl’s Night Out to a Women’s Luncheon, but maybe you won’t have to drink twelve cups of coffee to make it through the next day.
  3. Sleep in the dark.  It’s a novel idea, and it really works.  Use shades on your windows, turn the clock the other way, and don’t leave the bathroom light on.
  4. Keep your room cool – it’s easier to sleep snuggled in a warm blanket, than sweating on top of the sheets.  Try using a fan if you don’t want to keep your A/C on as high.
  5. Reduce the amount of noise in your bedroom.  This may be street noise, the TV, or an offending partner’s snoring; regardless, eliminate it.  Sleep in separate bedrooms, use a white noise machine, make everyone else in the home watch TV in the basement, anything to keep it quiet.
  6. Find a bed that limits motion disturbance.  We all know that I’m a fan of Comforpedic memory foam, but other memory foam products also do a great job, as do Beautyrest mattresses.
  7. Pretend like your workplace is Las Vegas: whatever happens there, stays there.  Don’t let your job stress compromise your sleep, because it will become a vicious cycle (when you are tired, you’re going to underperform, and lose your mental quickness and memory capabilities).
  8. Limit alcohol and food intake right before bed.  A full belly can make comfortable sleeping difficult.  Also, alcohol creates disruptive sleep, as hard as it might be to believe.
  9. Make sleep a priority.  We have all been guilty of putting off sleep to get other things done, please a loved one (why are so many major sporting events on in the evening, until midnight!!!), or to just get some time alone without people wanting you to get them things that they can easily get themselves.  For a week, put all that aside, and focus on sleeping.  See how much better you can feel, and how much more pleasant you can be.

All of this is great, but I am the eternal pot, and you, of course, are the kettle.  I will make an effort to be more conscious of my own sleeping habits, and will report back to you.  Feel free to report back to me in the comments, and tell me what works best for you.  We will get through this middle-aged sleep crisis together.  And if not, eventually the kids will grow up, we will retire (hopefully), and my friends will be more “let’s have mimosas at a Sunday brunch” instead of “let’s ride the mechanical bull at the country bar until 3am” kind of people.  We can all hope.

Sleep Facts – Moms sleeps almost 20{d066f20f781a5b527d275b31e1f8758c7870657f3e5775941a299b25a4f5af5a} LESS than Dads!

As we age, we need less and less sleep to be able to function normally.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns need the most, up to eighteen hours per day.  Infants from three to eleven months need about fourteen to fifteen hours, toddlers need twelve to fourteen.  Skip ahead to children up to age ten, and they still need ten to eleven hours.  Teens need at least eight, up to nine, and adults need between seven and nine hours.

For kids and teens, they need this larger quantity of sleep for a few reasons: first they are growing.  Children do the most growing at night, while they are asleep.  It’s also the time when muscles repair themselves, and cells regenerate.  Secondly, the mind processes all the learning that was done during the day at night.  Not getting enough sleep can affect short term memory, which in turn can affect test scores and school performance.  Those late night cramming sessions may not be as beneficial as we all thought that they were!  Thirdly, have you been around a kid that hasn’t gotten enough sleep?  Protect your own sanity, and make sure that your kids are getting the sleep that they need.

Not getting enough sleep

Now, adults.  Those of us who don’t sleep enough have a higher risk of diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and depression.  There is an increased risk of getting into an accident, both in the car and at work, and a decreased ability to pay attention and remember things.

We live in a society that seems to reward lack of sleep.  In my home, it seems like no one ever sleeps well, and we are always trying to one-up each other about who slept less.  It seems to me that you are looked down upon if you sleep too much (which may only be eight hours), and you’re considered to be lazy and less productive.

It may be that there is too much stimulation, too many things to do and check up on.  Most of us are working more than 40 hours per week, sometimes from home.  We need to catch up with our kids, our housework, our email, Facebook, and twitter.  I know that in my home, I often don’t get a moment to myself until my kids are in bed and asleep, and this can sometimes be as late as 10pm.  Although I’m tired, I still want to respond to an email, enjoy the peace and quiet, or watch a movie with my husband.  I feel like I’ve earned that relaxation time, and am willing to forgo sleep to be able to wind down.  Check out this infographic, it’s the story of my life:

Moms sleeps almost 20{d066f20f781a5b527d275b31e1f8758c7870657f3e5775941a299b25a4f5af5a} LESS than Dad’s

This blog is great at telling you what you should be getting, but is all this information going to change your sleeping habits in the real world?  Probably not.  So, instead of telling you what your body needs, I’m going to tell you how to make the most of what you’re already getting:

  • Buy a new bed if you need to, one that supports you well and relieves pressure.  Pick one that dampens motion disturbance, and is a large enough size (like a king for two people).  My blanket recommendation, regardless of how you sleep and what size and age you are is the Renewed Energy by Comforpedic.  I know, I’m predictable.
  • For that “me” time at the end of the night, turn off the TV, the laptop, and the cell phone.  Pick up a book, or take a bath.  These activities can help you fall asleep easier and faster, rather than keep you awake.
  • Try to change your kid’s sleep timers.  If they have trouble getting up in the morning (or sleeping until noon on the weekends), put them to bed earlier at night.  This can be hard with teens, but have them keep a sleep journal, detailing (honestly) how much they slept, how easy it was to get up, and how they felt during the day.  If your toddler gets cranky in the afternoon, re-introduce the nap, or move up bed time.
  • Stay away from sugary snacks in the evening, even that bowl of ice cream.  For both kids and adults, it can keep you awake longer than you want to be.

Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to help you get a better night’s sleep, chances are that they’re sleep deprived too.  It’s for your health, your longevity, and your attitude.

Amazing Facts on Sleep :


25 Crazy Facts About Sleep

Healthiest Sleeping Positions – Whats yours?

10 Interesting Craziest Facts about Sleep – Take a look