Finding the Best Sleeping Pill for Insomnia
About ten percent of Americans have chronic insomnia disorder while 15 to 20 percent experience short-term insomnia that lasts for less than 3 months.
Being unable to sleep at night is not only agonizing, it is also associated with numerous health problems including obesity, depression and heart attacks.
Luckily, advances in medicine have created safe and effective sleeping pills (medications) that can help with insomnia.
Even more amazing is how well modern sleep medicines target specific sleeping problems.
For instance, the doctor may prescribe a certain medication if one has trouble falling asleep and another if the problem is in staying asleep through the night.
But despite the beneficial developments, it can be still a challenge to choose the right sleeping pills that will be effective and safe. Below is a brief look at the factors to consider when choosing the right sleep medication.
Types of Sleeping Pills
Most types of sleep medications used decades ago were dangerous and highly addictive. It was not until the 1970s that important advances were made to create the safe sleeping pills available today.
One of the earliest classes of modern sleeping pills was the benzodiazepine drugs.
Benzos were safer than the previously used barbiturates but still had issues with dependence and withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, insomnia rebound would occur as a withdrawal symptom. The FDA approved them only for use for short periods of time, usually two weeks.
In the 1990s, another class of sleeping medications was developed. These nonbenzodiazepines (also called Z drugs) have less common side-effects and milder withdrawal effects than benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
The most popular of the Z drugs is Ambien.
Over time, other better and more targeted nonbenzodiazepines have emerged.
Most of them have no restrictions on the period of use and newer ones do not carry any danger of abuse.
The Primary Classes of Sleep Drugs
Selective GABA Medicines
– these target certain receptors in the brain referred to as GABA receptors. Brands in this class include Ambien, Ambien CR, Lunesta, and Sonata.
Sleep-wake cycle modifiers
– they target the sleep-wake cycle system in the brain. A drug in this category is Rozerem.
– these have been explained above. They cause withdrawal symptoms and can cause dependency. Examples include Halcion, Ativan, Restoril, and Xanax.
– they target a number of brain receptors. Tricyclics are newer and not many studies have been conducted on their effectiveness or impact. Examples include Elavil, Pamelor, Adapin, and Trazodone.
A doctor will base his or her prescription on the type of sleeping problem, individual health conditions, age, and adverse effects.
There may also be a cost factor involved, depending on what the insurance provider will pay for. Of course, certain medications such as Benzodiazepines will often not be an option because of their negative side-effects.
Specific Sleeping Problem
The kind of insomnia issue a patient is experiencing will greatly determine what medicine is prescribed.
Certain sleeping pills, for example, are meant for a full night’s sleep, around 7 to 8 hours. These are best taken for those with trouble falling asleep.
Other sleeping pills are designed to induce sleep for shorter periods, around 4 hours. They are said to have a ‘shorter half life’. Short-life sleeping pills are best for people who tend to wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep.
So understanding what the specific problem is crucial to getting the right sleeping medication. The wrong medication for a certain problem can cause negative side-effects.
For instance, Ambien is meant for a full night’s sleep. If taken in the middle of the night, it can cause sleepiness, fatigue and disorientation the next day.
Other medications can cause Seniors to have a higher risk of falling, so age plays a factor.
Always Ask Your Doctor
The most important part of sleep medication is to see a doctor to discuss the problem that is being experienced.
Self-medicating with over the counter sleeping pills has its risks. The wrong medicine could be taken, increasing the risk for dependency or withdrawal.
A doctor will help diagnose the root problem and recommend the best solution.
Understand The Root Cause
Insomnia often occurs as a symptom of an underlying problem. In some cases, it is the medication one is taking or a specific illness.
But all too often, anxiety or bad sleeping habits are the cause of chronic insomnia.
Certain other medications can help deal with specific issues like anxiety or depression and thereby resolve the sleeping problems.
But it is important to pair medication with the right sleeping habits.
In the end, you might find that you do not need any medication at all or just very short term.