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Signs that Indicate when Sleeping Pills are your Last Resort

Jan 17, 2008
Research has shown that occasional bouts of insomnia affect approximately forty percent of Americans and one out of every ten individuals suffers from more chronic insomnia that is ongoing. Sleeping pills can provide some individuals with relief from their sleeplessness and help improve their chances for getting a restful night's sleep. Doctors will only prescribe sleep medication for insomnia as a last resort after other methods such as lifestyle alterations (changing one's diet, exercising more regularly, etc.) and behavioral techniques have been undertaken.

What are the signs that indicate that sleeping pills are necessary as a last resort? The National Sleep Foundation has set down guidelines as to when medicating a person for sleep relief becomes essential. First of all the cause of the sleeplessness has to be clearly identified. If difficulties with sleep patterns are affecting an individual's ability to accomplish many routine daily tasks then sleeping pills might need to be taken under advisement. If behavioral techniques have been refused by the insomniac or have not helped, it may be time for sleeping pills. If a person is suffering from a form of insomnia-related distress, sleeping pills might remedy this. Many doctors start their patients on a small dosage of sleeping meds at the start of behavioral therapy as they favor using the two in conjunction with each other.

Two other instances where sleeping pills might be considered for relief is if the insomnia is short-term or temporary (for example if a person is mourning the loss of a loved one or suffered the loss of a job) and/or if the insomnia is connected in any way with a diagnosed medical or biological condition (for example, premenstrual syndrome) or a stressful event such as a job interview, public speaking or the fear of flying.

Other indications that sleeping pills may be in order are if you suddenly find that your memory is not so good, you have a slow response time and if you find it difficult to control your emotions (for example, crying at inopportune times or sudden bursts of anger). If you are drifting off to sleep at the wheel, that can prove dangerous (and in severe cases, fatal) to yourself and/or others. If performance problems at work have you concerned, if you find it difficult to concentrate on the simplest tasks and your attention span is very small then perhaps you are in need of a last resort to get a fitful night's sleep.

When doctors prescribe sleeping pills to patients it is necessary for certain criteria to be met. First of all the lowest effective dosage should be given, it should be given on a nightly basis if short-term but if for long-term purposes, it should be intermittent, and finally it should be used in conjunction with psychology (such as behavioral techniques or approaches to good sleep). Figuring out whether a person is suffering from short or long-term insomnia is so very important in deciding upon a solution to the problem. Behavior modifications are often very successful when short-term insomnia is related to a stressful life situation while long-term insomnia may have other considerations.

Over-the-counter medication (OTC) is an alternative to prescription sleeping pills. Over-the-counter sleeping pills are best used for short-term bouts of insomnia but changes to sleeping habits and/or lifestyle changes are encouraged. Becoming dependent on OTC sleeping pills is not advisable nor is it healthy and excessive use can actually increase the debilitating effects of insomnia. Over-the-counter medications can have adverse effects on the body so it is important to pay attention to how one's body reacts to the use of them. If you experience any of these common side effects then discontinue use of the pills- blurred vision, constipation, dried mouth and throat, dizziness, drowsiness the following day, forgetfulness and urinary retention.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the most common ingredient to be found in over-the-counter sleeping pills is antihistamine. Other names for this ingredient are diphenhydramine hydrochloride, diphenhydramine citrate and doxylamine succinate. The sleep experienced while taking OTC pills is not the exact same quality as the normal sleep of those not taking sleeping pills. It is believed that people who use OTC sleeping pills only experience deep sleep approximately five percent of the night (in comparison to ten to twenty-five of regular unmedicated sleepers).
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