Finding Solutions for Insomnia

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3 Tips for Taking Insomnia Medication

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Nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. have insomnia from time to time, and 20% of us have it every night. One of the most common insomnia treatments is sleeping pills, although non-medication treatments are usually tried first. Taking sleeping pills can become addictive, but long-term insomnia without relief can lead to depression, anxiety, and even accidents. Your doctor will help you weigh your options, but it’s good to have some general knowledge going into it.

1. Make sure you understand potential side effects.

Different types of insomnia medication do different things. Some help you fall asleep. Some help you stay asleep. Some do both. Some have a higher risk of dependency than others, and all come with benefits and potential side effects. Common side effects are:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep walking

Some people experience a side effect known as “sleep drunkenness.” It involves hallucinating or doing things in your sleep that you don’t remember doing, like sending texts or eating. If this sounds familiar, tell your doctor right away.

2. Follow your doctor’s instructions and never mix sleeping pills with alcohol.

Your doctor will tell you when to take your insomnia medication and how much to take. Sleeping pills are usually taken for a short period of time, like two to four weeks. If prescribed longer-term, doctors typically recommend taking them only as needed, three times a week at most.

Read up on your insomnia medication before you take it. Then plan your first dose for a night when you have an easy next day in case you need it.

 Never take sleeping pills until right before bed and never mix sleeping pills with alcohol ̶ not even a drop. It’s also usually best to skip your sleeping pill on nights when you can’t get the number of hours of sleep you typically need. Most adults need seven to nine hours a night.

3. Keep your doctor informed about your experiences.

It’s important to keep in touch with your doctor as you begin treatment with insomnia medication. Report how well it’s working and any side effects you experience. Your doctor may need to adjust your dose or try a different medication for relief from your sleep problems. They will also likely encourage you to try a variety of lifestyle changes to complement your medication, like keeping to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding screens before bed, and exercising more often.

When it’s time to stop using sleeping pills, don’t do it abruptly. Your doctor should work with you on a plan to stop using them, just as when you started.

Insomnia can be a challenge to overcome, but by partnering with your doctor and taking the right treatment option for you, you can find relief.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 1
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