Sleep Aids: Are They Safe For You?

Better be safe than sorry

sleep aids benefits

If you are part of the third of people suffer from sleep deprivation and sleep disorders, you know how agonizing it can be.

You lay in bed, tossing and turning, glancing at the clock, while at the same time trying to pep-talk your brain to sleep

The causes for sleep deprivation can range from stress at work, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, surgery to medical effects.

Without sleep, you cannot go through your day as you normally would. 

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You’ll need at least 7 hours of restful sleep for adults regularly for our bodies to perform well. Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t come as easily as it does to some people.

If you find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, it affects your entire day. Especially when you have jet lag symptoms.

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Your mood and performance are all affected. It’s not surprising people count on sleep aids benefits for better night sleep.

What are sleep aids?

Sleep aids refer to sedative and hypnotic medications that are used to induce or maintain sleep. Sleep aids work by suppressing activities in the central nervous system. 

Here’s what one CDC research reported:

  1. Over 16 percent of adults who reported a physician’s diagnosis of a sleep disorder reported using sleep aids in the past 30 days
  2. About 13 percent of adults who told their doctor that they had trouble sleeping reported sleep aid use, which was nearly 12 times higher than those who did not report any trouble sleeping
  3. Males females, the young, and the old take these sleep aids to help them sleep better. 
Prescription sleep aid use in the past 30 days increased with age. Source: CDC

What are some examples of sleep aids?

While there are many sleep aids benefits, let’s take a step back and look at some of the common sleep aids that people use. 

Melatonin-receptor agonists

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain which helps in the overall sleep process. 

As we age, the production of these hormones reduces which in turn reduces the quality and duration of our sleep. 

Ramelteon is a melatonin-receptor agonist that helps in the treatment of insomnia characterized by poor quality of sleep

Agomelatine helps in the treatment of depression and other sleep disorders. Then there is Tasimelteon which helps in the treatment of non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder in the blind.

Benzodiazepines

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This is a class of drug that is used to treat insomnia. 

These drugs such as Ativan and Temazepam affect certain chemicals in the brain called the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) by suppressing the activities of the nerve cells. 

The excess activities of the nerve cells are recognized to be the cases of anxiety and insomnia.

Nonbenzodiazepines

These also work exactly like benzodiazepine by working on the GABA. The only difference is they do not last long in the body and have fewer side effects as compared to benzodiazepines. Drugs in this class are zolpidem and eszopiclone.

What are the benefits of sleep aids?

In as much everything with a good side has a bad side, sleep aids have a few good sides. Sleep aids undeniably work faster.

As soon as you pop the pill into your system, it begins to work in a matter of seconds. 

You get drowsy after a few seconds with little or no extra effort. These pills work faster when prescribed. 

This is because, after talking to a doctor, your issues are properly diagnosed and the right drug is prescribed. 

Research studies have not been able to come out with conclusive findings on the effects of overdosing on sleep aids. Although it is not advisable to overdose on them.

What to know before using sleep aids

Sleep aids are normally prescribed by our doctors before we take them.

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But some prefer to self-medicate and so we go-ahead to the pharmacies to get them by ourselves. 

It is good to know that not all sleep aids are good for us.  For adolescents whose reproductive organ is still maturing, sleep aids might or might not be a good choice. 

It is better to be safe than sorry. Again there haven’t been any long term studies on what sleep aids can do to a pregnant woman and her fetus.

Heavy reliance on sleep aids can lead to a serious form of addiction.

It can leave you at a state where you would do anything to lay your hands on these pills. 

In the case where you want to stop, your withdrawal symptoms can be as deadly as the addiction itself. 

The anxiety and agitation could lead you to cause harm to yourself and others. That could be dangerous for you and possibly it could lead to death. An alternative to sleep aids is to consider white noise benefits.

Takeaway

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The side effects of sleep aids are numerous; they include, memory loss, dizziness, sleepwalking, headaches, and many others. 

Misusing it may even lead to poor restorative sleep which has been linked with other parasomnias like sleep paralysis.

Some of us overlook all these effects just to get some good sleep but is it worth risking our health in the long term for some good sleep in the short term?

Sleep aids serve their purpose only when taken when it is necessary. 

That is why it is strongly advisable not to self-medicate on these especially if you are an adolescent, an expectant or lactating mother.