Sleep Aids: What You Need to Know
Talk to Your Doctor First
Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Medication
- Take the medicine exactly as prescribed.
- Try the medicine only after you have tried changing your behavior.
- Use the lowest possible effective dose.
- Do not automatically take a pill every night. Use the medicine 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
- The drug's half-life (the amount of time it takes for one-half of the drug to be lost through biological processes)
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 three to five 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 six 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/about/ncsdr/index.htm
National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org/
Better Sleep Council Canada http://www.bettersleep.ca/
The Canadian Sleep Society http://www.css.to/
Healthy Sleep Tips. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Melatonin. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthlibrary/. Updated July 25, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Sack RL, Auckley D, Auger RR, 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 December 27, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 12/2012 -
- Update Date: 12/27/2012 -