Sleep and Medicine

Having trouble sleeping? There are many medicines that help with sleep out there for you to choose from. There are over-the-counter medicines and medications for sleep that are prescription only. There are home remedies, but are all these sleep aids really helping you get better sleep, or are they just covering up what really needs to be changed?

Sleep apnea and insomnia are two common sleep disorders that tend to have people reaching for the handle of the medicine cabinet, ready to take whatever is handy to make the tired feeling go away by finally getting to sleep. The problem is that both insomnia and sleep apnea should really be treated by a doctor. If you are having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep for long periods of time, or feel you are not getting enough sleep and the problem has been around for a while, schedule an appointment with your doctor. There may be a medical issue that needs to be addressed, and no sleep disorder medicines are going to help if you have a physical or medical condition that is keeping you from getting to sleep or staying asleep through the night.

Sleep medicine for infants should only be dispensed by a doctor. Do not medicate your infant to get him/her to fall asleep without being absolutely certain it is necessary. If you make a mistake and give them the wrong medication there could be an allergic reaction or you may give them too much. Labels on almost all over-the-counter medications say to seek help for children under two.

When you take a sleep medicine, keep track of how you feel after you’ve been taking it for one day, one week, and one month. Many medications may help for a short time, but are not going to work for the duration or become a permanent solution. Here are some things to look out for when you have trouble sleeping. See if you can fix these before resorting to the quick fix medicine offers:

• Are you under more stress lately? If stress is your problem, medicine may help you get to sleep but it won’t help you stay asleep. If you take steps to fix the situation that has you feeling the stress, you are far more likely to fall asleep on your own.

• Feel like you need alcohol to fall asleep? Talk to your doctor and make sure this isn’t a symptom of a larger problem. Do alcohol problems run in your family? If so, you should see if you can go a week without drinking before bed and see if you can fall asleep. If not, you should seek help.

• Have you washed your pillows lately? A pillow, as it gets older, becomes heavy with dust mites and dead skin cells from your face and neck that rub off on the pillow during the night. Breathing these in can affect your quality of sleep. You may even be allergic to dust mites, in which case you will sleep better if you replace your pillows more frequently.

• Have you flipped your mattress in the last year? Your body may not be supported by your mattress the way it used to be, leading to discomfort in the night and affecting your sleep. Flipping your mattress (or replacing it if it’s old) will increase your sleep quality.

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