Understanding Over- The- Counter Sleep Aids

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.   Experiencing either of these issues may happen on occasion or can become chronic -occurring more than three times a week, for at least three months. 

Whether problems getting adequate sleep occurs occasionally or is a nightly struggle, it can lead to complications such as fatigue or problems concentrating which prompts many to seek relief.  

There are a number of ways to get relief from the effects of insomnia, one of which includes taking over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids.

Over-the-counter sleep aids are widely available but should be used as a temporary solution (no longer than two weeks). Sleep experts advise against regular use because most OTC sleep aids rely on antihistamines to promote drowsiness. Others may also combine the pain reliever Acetaminophen or alcohol along with antihistamine as their primary active ingredients.

Long-term use of sleep aids containing these ingredients can lead to:

  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Feeling off balance
  • Constipation or urinary retention
  • Blurred vision
  • Dependency

It is important to keep in mind that OTC sleep aids are often not recommended for people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, severe liver disease, sleep apnea or close-angle glaucoma.

Sleep aids may be used to provide temporary relief for insomnia; however, they should not be used as a replacement for creating healthy sleeping habits or seeking proper treatment.

Healthy sleep habits include:

  • Avoiding excessive blue light from electronics or cellphones before going to sleep
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day if possible
  • Keeping naps short ( 30 minutes or less)
  • Avoiding caffeine or nicotine
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly

If you are suffering from the effects of insomnia, speak with your doctor before taking a sleep aid.  Your doctor can inform you of possible drug interactions or medications that can affect underlying health conditions.  They may also recommend making an appointment with a sleep specialist who can properly diagnose your condition and offer treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or prescribed sleep-inducing medications. To schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

5 Natural Sleep Aids

sleep-480568337The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults should receive between seven to eight hours of sleep each day.  However, the National Sleep Council reports that a staggering 48% of people living in the United States do not get enough sleep.  Additionally, one- third of our population states that they lay awake a few nights out of each week because they are unable to fall asleep.

These statistics clearly indicate that many of us are having problems falling asleep and getting adequate rest.  Without enough sleep, our bodies will not function properly. Sleep is needed to restore parts of the body such as the blood vessels and the heart. It is also needed to promote proper brain function and maintain a healthy balance in hormones.

Trying these natural sleep aids can help you combat sleeplessness and get the rest needed to revitalize your body:

  • Tart cherries or cherry juice-Tart cherries such as Montmorency cherries contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential in producing the hormones serotonin and melatonin. Increased levels of these hormones in the body can create the urge to sleep.
  • Valerian– Is a natural supplement that is commonly used to ease insomnia. Some studies suggest that it helps people fall asleep faster and improves the quality of sleep.
  • Hops– Hops are not only known for making beer, this herb is also known for promoting relaxation. Hops are typically boiled and steeped to make a tea.  Drinking this a few minutes before bed is said to help in achieving a restful night’s sleep.
  • Chamomile– This herb is usually ingested in the form of a tea. It contains several compounds such as apigenin and coumarin that are found to have a calming effect on the body.
  • Melatonin – Melatonin is naturally produced by the body but some people increase their levels by taking supplements. It can be used to help people with disruptive sleep cycles. Physicians recommend that you adhere to taking low dosages (speak to a doctor about which dose is right for you.) This is because taking too much melatonin can cause adverse reactions such as dizziness, headaches and hallucinations.

It is highly recommended that you consult a physician before trying these sleep aids. Although natural, there is the possibility that they can cause side effects.  Be certain to inform the doctor of all medications that you are taking, as mixing medications with certain herbs can be hazardous to your health.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.