Be Smart About Sleep Aids
Sleep can be elusive. On some nights, we easily cozy up with it. On others, it may linger frustratingly out of reach. Struggling for some shuteye may entice you to try a sleep aid. Used properly, sleep aids can help. But they aren't without risks.
A recent government report documented a spike in emergency room visits related to the sleep drug zolpidem. You may know it better as Ambien. From 2005 to 2010, such visits jumped 220 percent. Half of those were the result of an interaction with another drug, often a pain reliever.
Zolpidem and other similar prescription sleep aids, such as eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata), treat insomnia. A person with insomnia may have trouble falling and staying asleep. The condition can last a few days or extend for weeks.
Like other drugs, sleep aids can have side effects. The most common are daytime grogginess, headache, and dizziness. More serious side effects may include severe allergic reactions and behavior like walking, eating, or driving in your sleep. These unusual activities are more likely to occur if you use such drugs excessively.
Sleep aids are available by prescription and over the counter. Although you may be able to buy some in a store, they can be just as harmful as prescribed drugs when not used properly. In particular, they may contain antihistamines, which can cause bad reactions in some people.
If you are considering any type of sleep aid, talk with your doctor first. He or she can help determine the best option for you. Also follow these steps to avoid problems:
- Use a sleep aid only as directed. Don't take extra doses for a better night's rest.
- Take sleep aids for as short a time as possible. Some can be addictive.
- Never combine a sleeping aid with drugs or alcohol. Bad reactions are more likely to happen.
- Take a sleep aid only when you are able to devote at least eight hours to rest. Otherwise, you may be too sleepy the next day to perform daily activities.
- Consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) before trying a sleep aid. CBT can teach you better sleep habits and ease anxiety associated with insomnia.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.