Sleep Aids: What You Need to Know
Talk to Your Doctor First
- Take the medication exactly as prescribed.
- Try the medication only after you have tried changing your behavior.
- Use the lowest possible effective dose.
- Do not automatically take a pill every night. Use the medication only when you must have an uninterrupted night of sleep. Even then, it is a good idea to take sleeping pills only a few times per week at the most.
Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
- How your body uses and responds to the drug
- How long the drug stays in your body
Healthy Sleep Habits
- Keep a regular sleep schedule —Our sleep-wake cycles are regulated by a circadian clock in our brain and the body's need to balance sleep and wake times. It is beneficial to go to bed and get up at the same time each day to allow your body to get in sync with this natural pattern.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol — Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants.Caffeine-containing products include coffee, tea, and chocolate. Half the amount of caffeine ingested will remain in the body on average from 3-5 hours, but some people are affected for up to 14 hours. Alcohol causes sleep disturbances throughout the night. While alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep, it can lead to a night of disrupted sleep as the night progresses.
- Do not eat or drink too close to bedtime —It is best to avoid a heavy meal too close to bedtime. Spicy foods may cause heartburn , which leads to difficulty staying asleep. A light snack before bed may help you sleep better.
- Exercise at the right time to promote sleep —Regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for insomnia. However, exercising right before bedtime will make falling asleep difficult. Besides making you more alert, exercise causes a rise in body temperature, which can take approximately 6 hours to begin to drop. A cooler body temperature signals the body that it is time for sleep.
- Use relaxing bedtime rituals —This may include taking a bath, reading a book, meditating, or listening to relaxing music. Use techniques that work best for you and your bed partner.
- Create a sleep-promoting environment —The best sleep environment is a cool, quiet, and dark room. Be sure to check your room for noise or other distractions. Make sure that your mattress is comfortable and supportive.
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org
Better Sleep Council Canada http://www.bettersleep.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Healthy sleep tips. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed November 25, 2014.
Melatonin. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated September 18, 2014. Accessed November 25, 2014.
Sack RL, Auckley D, et al. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders: Part I, basic principles, shift work and jet lag disorders. Sleep. 2007;30:1460-1483.
Sleep aids and insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/sleep-aids-and-insomnia. Accessed November 25, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 11/2014 -
- Update Date: 11/25/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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