Many people find sleep aids helpful for insomnia. Your doctor may recommend that you take a sleep aid to help you fall asleep, sleep longer during the night, wake up less frequently, or improve the quality of your sleep. There are a few things to consider when you’re trying to decide if a sleep aid is the right approach for you:
- Sleep aids may be a good idea if you’ve tried behavioral changes and other non-medical treatments, but insomnia continues to interfere with daily activities, productivity, or personal relationships.
- If your insomnia is short-term, sleep aids may help. For example, if you’re having difficulty sleeping as the result of a temporary change to your work schedule, in the case of jet lag, or in advance of a special event or other cause of short-term anxiety and sleep loss.
- If you and your doctor have determined the cause of insomnia, a particular sleep aid may be indicated for this cause.
- Discuss with your doctor if your sleep difficulties are having psychological or health consequences.
- Sleep aids can’t replace healthy sleep habits; good sleep practices are the foundation of proper treatment for insomnia. Especially if your insomnia is long-standing, it’s important to use non-medical approaches, such as proper sleep hygiene, and cognitive behavioral treatments for insomnia. For some, a combination of medical and behavioral treatments may be the best way to manage insomnia symptoms, and for others a sleep aid is used at the beginning of treatment and behavioral techniques take over as a long-term approach.
Some sleep aids are available by prescription only. This is because it’s important to work with a doctor to decide on the best type, dose, and plan for taking a sleep aid. Over-the-counter sleep aids work for some people, but it’s not a good idea to use these regularly for a long period of time. The best practice is to use a sleep aid with the input of your doctor.
How to Use Sleep Aids Safely
Consider these factors to make sure you’re using a sleep aid safely:
- Consult with your doctor about which type to use, the proper dose, and the best treatment plan. Your doctor will take into account your age and other health factors, as well as the underlying cause of insomnia, if possible. All this information is important in using sleep aids properly.
- Don’t forget non-medical approaches: If you take a sleep aid, it’s still key to use non-medical approaches, like cognitive behavioral treatments, relaxation exercises, and general sleep tips to establish healthy sleep patterns Multi-component approaches to facilitate sleep onset and maintain sleep is widely held as the best treatment approach.
- Sleep aids can be very helpful, especially in providing initial relief for people with insomnia, but most doctors agree that they should not be used indefinitely. Your doctor will help you figure out how long to take a sleep aid (the goal being to take a sleep aid for the shortest duration that still provides you with the proper sleep benefits).
- Over-the-counter sleep aids may help some people in the short term, but they are not intended for longer term use or as a comprehensive fix for insomnia.
- Follow safety guidelines: It’s important to follow all the safety guidelines of each sleep aid. Read packaging material carefully and talk to your doctor about any precautions you should be aware of, especially as they pertain to your personal health.