Friday, November 25, 2011

The Side Effects of Prescription Sleep Aids by Paul Stevens

If you suffer from insomnia, it is likely that you are taking prescription sleep aids. Unfortunately, quite a few medications prescribed for insomnia bring with them a variety of side effects. While these can help temporary insomnia to some extent, especially in small doses, long-term sleep problems must be tackled in a different way. Interestingly, most doctors advise medication only as a last resort, as there are other remedies that are safe and help induce sleep.

Among the worst side effects of prescription sleep aids is that of addiction and dependence. The common prescription medicines are sedatives, tranquilizers and drugs used to treat anxiety. Obviously, you need a doctor's prescription for these since they are habit-forming and can be harmful to your health.

A major problem with hypnotics is their tendency to lose their effectiveness when you become used to them. You may also develop withdrawal symptoms if you stop them, bringing that insomnia right back. Tapering the dose gradually over several weeks usually tackles this problem.

There are also over the counter, or OTC, medications for which prescriptions are not necessary. These are diphenhydramine and dimenhydrinate and are used to resolve minor insomnia. You could, however, develop dry mouth, blurred vision and dizziness. Moreover, if you already suffer from cardiac problems or angina, urinary problems or other health issues, you should avoid taking OTC drugs like Nytol and Sominex. Incidentally, melatonin supplements are supposed to treat insomnia. Even though these are used widely, not much information is available about their safety. Because they are classed as supplements and not drugs, they are not tested by the Food & Drug Administration and may include unknown ingredients. If you have been advised to take these, think twice before you act and only buy reliable brands.

Prescription medicines for insomnia are best taken in low doses. Some of these are: Benzodiazepines - these go by the brand names Ativan, Xanax, Halcion, Restoril, among others. Common side effects may include respiratory disorders, sleepiness in the daytime, loss of memory, and fluctuating moods. You can certainly not take sleeping aids with alcohol or medications for ulcers as the interaction can be dangerous.

Non-benzodiazepines - available under the brand name Ambien. People who take these sometimes complain of nausea, dizziness, headaches, nightmares and restlessness.

Antidepressants - these drugs are thought to help with insomnia connected to depression. Examples are Paxil, Serzone and Desyrel, to name some. These prescription drugs bring on fewer side effects than the others.

So what do you do? The point is that, in order to avoid the serious side effects of prescription sleeping aids, you should look at the causes of your insomnia rather than treating the symptom itself. If worry is causing your sleeplessness, all you may need is an antidepressant rather than sleeping pills. Doctors recommend that you avoid benzodiazepine which can be addictive. Instead, opt for something that is non-addictive. Moreover, take sleeping pills only when you absolutely need to, not as a habit. If you happen to be a woman going through menopause, sleeplessness can be tackled with hormone replacement therapy. Ultimately, to decide which prescription sleeping aid is best for you, you should talk to your health care provider so that the treatment is based on your specific medical history and symptoms.