Should you Take Medication to Help you Fall Asleep?

Sunday 30 December 2018
Health & Wellness
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Over-the-Counter Sleep Medication

II. Prescription Sleep Medication

III. Underlying Conditions that Cause Insomnia

a. Good Habits

b. Staying Awake with Minimal Caffeine

Tossing and turning is no fun for anyone. When your lack of sleep causes you to perform badly at work, feel moody, and act short-tempered, you’ll be desperate for anything that works. 

You may have even started to consider medication. And you’re not alone! Whether they’re college students, working professionals, or retired older adults, many people use over-the-counter and prescription drugs to help them fall asleep.

Sure, a one-pill solution to your insomnia problem is tempting, but are these drugs safe? Are they addictive? And do you really need them?

Over-the-Counter Sleep Medication

white pills on blue background

You may have heard of melatonin, a common supplement that can be bought at most drugstores over the counter. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your body that causes sleepiness. Your body is triggered to release melatonin when it starts getting dark. 

Modern-day things like artificial lighting, screens, and intercontinental flights can mess up our body’s natural system of delivering melatonin. That’s why many people take melatonin supplements to make them feel sleepy at the right time, such as when you fly from one time zone to another and have to cope with jet lag.

There hasn’t been any research suggesting whether or not melatonin is addictive, so the consensus of many popular health publications is that it is generally safe. However, it is still considered a controlled substance in some countries like the UK. [1]

Antihistamines (i.e., allergy medication) may also be used for their sleepiness effect. However, a sleepy hangover the next morning is a common side effect, and you can build a tolerance to these medications quickly. [2]

Prescription Sleep Medication

Prescription sleep drugs include benzodiazepines (Ativan, Valium, etc.) and Z-drugs (Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta, etc.). Side effects of benzodiazepines include dependency, withdrawal symptoms, excessive drowsiness the next morning, and memory loss. Side effects of z-drugs include sleep-driving and sleep-eating. [2]

prescription pills

Using sleep aids can be habit-forming. You may grow to depend on a drug to fall asleep. This can be problematic if you realize you’ve forgotten to pack your pills on a trip. Moreover, psychoactive drugs are controlled substances, and you may face barriers accessing them and taking them across international borders. If used at all, sleep aids should ideally be a short-term solution.

Underlying Conditions that Cause Insomnia

There can be many causes of insomnia, which is why if you have trouble sleeping, it’s best to talk to a doctor first before trying any drugs. It may be more effective — and more sustainable in the long run — to treat the underlying condition rather than the symptom of insomnia itself.

black and white image of person

Things that cause insomnia include: [3]

  • Cardiovascular, neurological, or respiratory conditions, such as heart failure, COPD, and Alzheimer’s
  • Hormonal problems, such as problematic conditions with your thyroid
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and psychotic disorders
  • Lifestyle factors, including alcohol, caffeine, and diet

If you need prescription medications to treat an underlying illness, you can find affordable medication online at Canada Drug Warehouse

Good Habits

Insomnia can be extremely frustrating, but for most people, simple lifestyle changes and habit adjustments can right your sleeping schedule. The first few days of a new schedule may be touch-and-go for a bit, but once you get over that hump, your body will adjust itself to its new rhythm. Here are a few tips from the National Sleep Foundation: 

  • Go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day. Try not to vary too much on the weekends.
  • Exercise regularly, but don’t exercise within four hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Have a bedtime routine of at least 30 minutes. Your body will soon learn from these signals that it’s time to go to bed. Activities include reading, a warm bath, and a cozy drink.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and go to another room to do an activity like reading. This prevents associating your bedroom with insomnia. [4]

alarm clock

Staying Awake with Minimal Caffeine

If it’s 2:00 pm and you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes open, consider bringing the following foods like fruits, chocolate, green tea, and protein to work. Fruit contains sugar, which can keep you alert, but it won’t spike your glucose levels as dramatically as candy.  Chocolate and green tea contain caffeine at much lower doses than coffee, so your crash won’t be as intense. Finally, protein sources like lean meat release energy slowly. [5]

Alternatively, if you work away from windows, go outside for a walk and let the natural light wake you up. The light exercise of walking may also boost your wakefulness.

DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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