The Cleveland Clinic estimates that around 1-in-3 people middle age and older take some type of sleeping pill to help them rest. Insomnia becomes more common as you age and sleeping medicine does offer relief for some people. Some sleeping pills work by making you drowsy, while others might quiet the area of the brain that keeps you awake.
While sleeping pills are a good way to get a good night’s rest, even more natural options like melatonin can have side effects. Certain sleeping pills make it hard to wake up even after a full night of sleep, making you feel groggy and disoriented at the beginning of your day. There’s also a risk of dependence since your body doesn’t need to produce melatonin as usual to help you sleep.
While sleeping pills do offer short-term benefits, they aren’t really meant to be a long-term solution. They do have a purpose for those nights when a particularly stressful event or a death in the family are interrupting sleep. However, research shows that people who take sleeping pills only fall asleep 8-20 minutes faster. This means total, you might only be improving your sleep duration by about 35 minutes.
Developing good nighttime habits remain one of the best ways to help yourself get a full night of rest. Aside from underlying medical conditions keeping you up, the average person can have good quality sleep by practicing sleep hygiene. Plus, doing things like properly unwinding at night is a lot safer for your body and naturally promotes the production of serotonin which makes it easier to sleep.
For some people, improving sleep hygiene doesn’t necessarily fix their ability to sleep. If you have tried having a better sleep routine, relaxing before bed, unplugging from electronics, and making your sleep environment one that supports a good night of rest and it still doesn’t help, it may be time to talk to your doctor about other possible causes.
In most cases, your doctor will ask questions about your nightly routine and the place where you sleep. Try to answer as honestly as possible, even if the answer isn’t one that your doctor necessarily likes hearing. In most cases, your doctor will use this information and possibly do additional tests to find out what exactly is causing your sleeping troubles.
In most cases where another cause can’t be identified, doctors will recommend a sleep study. It’s not like you can really monitor yourself sleeping, so this gives professionals a chance to find out what’s going on. In addition to disrupting your sleep, conditions like sleep apnea actually block your airways and stop your ability to breathe, so they can be dangerous.
Also, keep in mind that sleep apnea isn’t the only sleeping disorder that you may struggle with. Insomnia, RLS, circadian rhythm disorders, narcolepsy, and even snoring can disrupt your ability to get a full night of sleep. Children may also struggle with night terrors, while pregnant women might not be able to sleep because of the increase of hormones from being pregnant. The only way to find out the exact cause is by working with someone who specializes in sleep.