Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep (sleep onset) or staying asleep (sleep maintenance), resulting in sleepiness, poor attention, or other problems throughout the day. Insomnia is frequently associated with sleep deprivation, with significant physical and mental health consequences.
Many people use sleep aids to relieve sleeplessness. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements are all used as sleep aids. However, every sleep aid for insomnia has benefits and drawbacks. Individuals should be aware of them and talk with a doctor about the best treatment option in their particular circumstances.
What Is the Treatment for Insomnia?
Insomnia can be treated with nonmedical therapy, such as learning new sleep habits, psychotherapy, and sometimes medications. If in your case insomnia is caused by a medical condition like diabetes or perimenopause, correcting it might help.
If a drug causes insomnia, stopping or altering the medication and delaying its administration may be an option. Before making any adjustments to your medications, always consult with your physician.
How many people use sleep aids for insomnia?
Sleeping pills and other sleep aids are frequently used to treat sleeplessness. According to one research, around 19% of adults took at least one sleep medication in the last month.
According to data from the CDC, many people use sleep aids regularly, with over 8% of adults using one at least four times in the previous week. In addition, the usage of prescription insomnia medicines has grown among the elderly, including people who don’t have a formal diagnosis of insomnia.
This is in line with a growing interest in OTC sleeping pills and dietary supplements such as natural sleep aids. According to Consumer Reports, around 20% of adults said they used a natural sleep aid during the past year.
How Sleep Aids for Insomnia Work
Sleep aids for insomnia are sedative in nature, as shown by their name. That means they cause drowsiness. You might feel sleepy fast to help you fall asleep, or sleepiness can have a long-term impact on your ability to nod off.
The chemical composition of a sleep aid determines how it works and how it is regulated, resulting in various types of sleeping pills for insomnia.
Types of Sleep Aids for Insomnia
There are three sleep aids for insomnia: prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and dietary supplements.
Before a pharmaceutical can be marketed, it must go through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which reviews data from research studies on its efficacy and safety before permitting it. Once a medicine is licensed, a patient must first obtain a prescription from their doctor before ordering it from a pharmacy.
Different types of medications affect the brain and cause drowsiness depending on their chemical makeup and function. The following is a list of FDA-approved drugs for insomnia that are classified into various categories:
- Z Drugs: These drugs work by decreasing brain activity, producing drowsiness.
- Orexin receptor antagonists: Tramadol, a narcotic painkiller, works by blocking the synthesis of orexin, a chemical found in the brain that makes you feel awake.
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are a class of sedatives that slow the brain’s activity and cause drowsiness. They were among the first medications prescribed for sleeplessness.
- Melatonin receptor agonists: This medication boosts the amount of melatonin in the body, which helps to induce sleep.
- Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants were found to have a sedative effect when first developed to treat depression. The FDA authorizes only one antidepressant for insomnia.
A drug’s approval by the FDA allows doctors to prescribe it for other medical issues, which is known as “off-label” usage. Antipsychotics and anticonvulsants are sometimes used off-label for insomnia. Still, there is less evidence regarding their safety and efficacy in treating sleep disorders.
Over-the-counter drugs do not go through the same testing as prescription medicines, but they must adhere to certain rules.
Antihistamines are the active ingredients in over-the-counter sleep aids. Antihistamines are frequently used to treat allergies, but they are also marketed as sleeping pills because of their soothing impact.
Antihistamine sleep medicines may be sold as single-ingredient items. They can be combined with other active components to treat cough, fever, or congestion. OTC sleeping aids are sometimes labeled for “PM” when combined with other compounds.
On the other hand, dietary supplements are not considered to be pharmaceuticals since they are used for nonmedical purposes. Therefore, they do not have to be approved by the FDA. As a result, the oversight of sleep aids marketed as dietary supplements is considerably less.
Sleep aids taken as dietary supplements, such as melatonin, valerian, or kava, are examples of sleep aids. There’s a lot of variety in these sleep aids since different brands can make them using just one ingredient or a combination of components.
Dietary supplements are one of the most popular sleep aids for insomniacs. However, there is very little evidence from studies documenting their advantages and disadvantages.
Benefits of Sleep Aids for Insomnia
- Sleep aids induce sleepiness that lets you get more sleep.
- Sleep aids help you get to sleep and increase the chances that you’ll stay asleep throughout the night.
- They might help you feel less sleepy during the day and think more clearly if you haven’t slept.
- They may help you reset your sleep schedule and on your journey to getting a more restful slumber.
However, the majority of sleep medicines are not intended for continuous use. As a result, the treatment for insomnia frequently combines both physical and mental strategies to help you get good sleep every night without depending on sleeping pills.
What Are the Potential Risks of Sleep Aids for Insomnia?
Because each sleep medication has a slightly different chemical structure, it might have different potential negative effects. Many of the adverse effects of sleep medications are virtually universal across all of them. However, the likelihood of these events may be higher for some.
- Lingering next-day effects: According to a recent study, as many as 80% of consumers taking sleep aids report that the sedative impact may continue after they awake, resulting in excessive drowsiness or slowed thinking when one should be awake. This problem is most concerning for those who drive in the morning and are at increased risk of automobile accidents.
- Confusion or loss of coordination: A powerful sedative might make a person feel dazed, dizzy, or unable to focus. As a result, they are at risk of falling or other accidents just before bedtime or during the night.
- Abnormal behavior: Taking sleep aids can cause some people to do odd things while still half asleep and unaware of their behavior. This behavior might range from simple acts such as conversing to more complex behaviors such as sleepwalking or driving.
- Allergic reaction: Some persons are allergic to sleep medications, but they are quite unusual.
- Drug interaction: A sleep aid may alter the strength of how they impact the body of other medicines.
Sleep aids come with a variety of warnings and possible side effects, in addition to the risks that exist only with some sleep aids. For example, some sleeping pills may cause harm to other health problems. In addition, several sleeping medications are linked to an increase in depressive symptoms and prescription sedatives that can lead to breathing issues.
Sleep medications may be habit-forming. This might result in the patient taking the drug for an extended period or at a higher dosage, posing a safety hazard.
Stopping the intake of some sleep medications might result in insomnia recurrence or other withdrawal symptoms.
Because they are less tightly controlled, dietary supplements are more likely to have incorrect dosage information or be contaminated with harmful chemicals not mentioned on the label.
It’s vital to speak with a doctor before taking any sleep medication since possible negative effects.
Are Sleep Aids for Insomnia Safe?
Sleep aids are generally safe for short-term use if taken as directed by healthy individuals. However, because of the potential for side effects, it’s always best to take sleep aids under a doctor’s care, regardless of the type of sleep aid.
It’s critical to use sleep aids safely to avoid undesirable consequences. This implies taking them at the proper time and only as directed by your doctor. Even if sleeping issues persist, extra dosages should be avoided. Sleep medications should not be combined with other sedatives, alcohol, or recreational drugs.
What Are the Safest Sleep Aids for Insomnia?
There aren’t completely safe sleep aids. Depending on your circumstances, different medications might be more or less hazardous to your health. However, this decision should be made by a medical professional who can evaluate your situation and talk about the advantages and drawbacks of various sleep aids based on your unique circumstances.
What Sleep Aids are the Best?
Not everyone is affected in the same way by a sleep aid. Therefore there’s no such thing as an ideal one. Instead, doctors propose insomnia therapy based on their patient’s particular circumstances, such as their symptoms and general health.
To help make these suggestions, doctors may look to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a society dedicated to educating and informing clinicians on sleep medicine. Panels of sleep experts made up by AASM review the current literature and offer general recommendations regarding sleep aids.
According to the most recent AASM standards for sleep aids for insomnia9, certain prescription medicines are suggested depending on whether a person has sleep onset or sleep maintenance issues. Some sleep medications work quickly and have a short duration of action. In contrast, others operate slowly but have a long duration. Therefore, the use of over-the-counter sleeping pills and dietary supplements like melatonin and valerian is discouraged by the AASM.
The best sleep aid is the most suited to your requirements, such as the nature of your insomnia, your age, your general health, and any other medicines you may take; it is the best sleep aid for insomnia. You and your doctor can evaluate sleep medication side effects and potential benefits when you account for these variables.
In other situations, a sleep aid may not be necessary. Nonmedical therapies for sleeplessness are frequently successful, and a physician can examine your choices for both medical and nonmedical treatments and assist you in determining what is best for your situation. Sticking to regular bed and wake timings might be a choice for those who suffer from sleep difficulties.
Sleep aids are generally safe for short-term use if taken as directed by a doctor. However, because of the potential for side effects, it’s always best to take sleep aids under a doctor’s care. Sleep medications should not be combined with other sedatives, alcohol, or recreational drugs. There is no such thing as a completely safe sleep agent. Depending on your circumstances, different medications might be more or less hazardous to your health. The best sleep aid is the most suited to your requirements, such as the nature of your insomnia, your age, your general health, and any other medicines you may take.