Medications used to treat insomnia, and similar sleeping problems are called sleeping medications, sleeping pills, or sleeping tablets. They are known by many names and are commonly available as pills and injections. Some other names with which they are known include sedatives, tranquillisers, hypnotics, soporifics, and sleep aids.
Sleep aids reduce the activity in the brain, which induces a calming and relaxing effect in the brain. This relieves anxiety and promotes better sleep at night. These medicines are a second-line treatment for insomniacs if cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) fails to work.
With the rapid increase in urbanisation, sleeping problems, particularly insomnia, have become more common worldwide. In 2021, research was conducted in the UK on sleeping disorders. It was found that 36% of the adult population suffers from insomnia at least once a week. Whereas 50% of UK adults struggle to sleep at least once a month.
A lot of factors can cause insomnia in a person. These factors may be physical, emotional, psychological, social, and environmental. Common reasons for insomnia include:
Insomnia gets worse as you age. Older people are more prone to develop sleeping problems than younger people. Additionally, insomnia is more common in women than in men. The reason is that women undergo hormonal changes every month due to menstruation.
Both medication and therapy are extensively used to treat insomnia and other sleeping problems. Treatment options include prescription and non-prescription medicines, therapies, and healthy lifestyle changes.
Non-prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping medication can be purchased by an adult without a doctor's prescription. They are also available as sleep supplements. Common types of OTC sleeping aids include:
Antihistamines are primarily used to treat allergies but also make you sleepy. Valerian root is a herb that may help to calm your nerves and help you sleep better. It's commonly available as valerian supplements.
Though these medicinal aids do not require a prescription, it's better to consult a doctor before taking them. OTC sleeping pills may interact with other supplements and medications, leading to specific side effects.
A medical prescription only approves prescription sleeping pills. They have a stronger influence than over-the-counter sleep supplements. Common examples of prescription sleeping drugs include:
Doctors usually recommend therapy as a first-line treatment for insomnia patients. If therapy is unsuccessful, they prescribe sleeping medications to get better results. Standard therapeutic techniques for sleeping problems include:
Among all the above, CBT is supposed to be the first-line treatment of insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Other than that, regular exercise and healthy eating habits can rival the effect of good sleeping tablets. Doctors usually prefer non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia as they have no side effects.
Pharmacological treatments work either by making you drowsy or by reducing the activity in parts of your brain that keep you alert or awake.
Melatonin supplements are taken to help you sleep. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body. It controls sleep. On the other hand, melatonin agonists promote sleep by regulating the melatonin level in your body. This induces a calming and relaxing effect which helps you sleep better.
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines work the same way. They bind with Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. This binding decreases brain activity and causes a sedative-like effect. The person starts feeling the effect in an hour as these medications get quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Their effect may last for a whole day.
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) works by decreasing your anxiety and stress. The therapist guides you to work around your thoughts and organise them in a better way. The latter part (behaviour) helps you to practise a good sleep routine.
Paradoxical intention challenges the patients to face their fears. This helps them to deal with their anxiety and exercise a calm mindset.
Light therapy works by setting the lights to a specific wavelength that promotes sleep. Dim and blue lights are supposed to have sleep-inducing properties.
Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are beneficial in relaxing the mind. These techniques are excellent for clearing your mind and increasing focus. They also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Regular workouts and a well-balanced diet are core factors for proper sleep. In addition, aerobic exercise and cardio seemingly affect your body the same way as a sleeping pill does.
Sleeping medicines are beneficial to those who struggle to sleep at night. Not only that, but sleeping medications also help people who have a habit of sleepwalking. People with parasomnia (the habit of eating or walking during sleep) feel better and more in control. This helps them to be less anxious and fearful.
Using sleeping tablets for a short time also reduces feelings of drowsiness and sleepiness during the day, which are usually a result of sleep deprivation at night. These medications can help you improve your sleeping habits and sleep soundly every night.
All medications are designed to be used in a specific way. Similarly, sleeping medication is quite helpful when used correctly. However, misuse or excessive consumption of these medications can adversely affect your health.
Side effects of sleeping medications and supplements include
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after taking your sleeping medication.
Sleeping medications and therapies can help you overcome insomnia and sleep better at night. Many over-the-counter sleeping aids are readily available in the market. However, prescription sleeping medications are stronger and need a doctor's approval. Healthcare professionals use cognitive behaviour therapy to treat insomnia first. Consult your doctor to find the best way to treat your insomnia and live healthier.