If you're one of the many Americans who has trouble falling asleep, or you suffer from insomnia, you may consider taking sleeping pills to help get enough Zs so you can function properly the next day. While these medications can be an effective tool for the short-term, you should be aware of the different types available, the possible side effects, and whether sleeping pills are bad for you.
Sleeping pills are classified as "sedative hypnotics" and include benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Ativan; barbiturates; and newer medications, such as Lunesta and Ambien. Benzodiazepines are mostly prescribed as anti-anxiety medications, but they are known to increase sleepiness. They can be helpful for short-term insomnia, but they can be addictive and have been shown to negatively affect a patient's memory and attention span. Barbiturates are sedatives that depress the body's central nervous system. They are mostly used as anesthesia, but are sometimes prescribed as sleeping pills or sedatives; however, they must be used with care because they can be fatal in an overdose. The newer sleep-inducing medications have gained popularity during recent years because they are less likely than benzodiazepines to become addictive. Two other sleep aids, Rozerem and Belsomra, are often prescribed because neither is habit-forming.
Like most medications, side effects run the gamut from dizziness and dry mouth to headaches and stomach aches. More serious side effects include problems with memory or attention, hives, shortness of breath, vomiting, blurred vision and uncontrollable shaking. Sleeping pills can interfere with normal breathing, which is especially dangerous for patients with asthma or COPD.
If you're really struggling to fall asleep or your insomnia is affecting your daily life, you might want to speak with your doctor about a prescription. Discuss your concerns and be sure to review the possible side effects and which type of medication may work best for you.
You may also consider using natural remedies to help induce restorative sleep, such as sipping warm chamomile tea before bed, listening to relaxing music to unwind and creating the best possible sleep environment. This includes a room temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees. If you find that you overheat at night and it negatively affects your sleep, take a look at our cooling bedding and moisture-wicking pajamas to keep you cool and comfortable.