Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Disorder Medicine and Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills alert – Breaking news Australia 10th April 2007

If you take, or have been prescribed Stilnox otherwise known as Zolpidem or Ambien please be warned. There have been some serious accidents attributed to this sleeping aid.

Stilnox takes sleep walking to a new level. People have been doing extraordinary things while “asleep” after taking this sleeping pill. For instance washing dishes, ironing, driving (and crashing) and even jumping off balconies! To read the attached article in the Courier Mail in Brisbane Go Here

These side effects do not affect everyone and some people swear by this sleeping aid. But there are others who have nearly lost their lives by taking Stilnox. How do you know if it’ll affect you? Well you don’t…

So if you’re considering taking sleeping pills please don’t take Stilnox. If you would like to come off all sleeping drugs, visit our rebound insomnia page for a good natural alternative which will help to wean you off drugs and establish a more natural sleep pattern.

What exactly is sleep disorder medicine?

Sleep disorder medicine is a pretty broad term and can mean natural or herbal medication, over the counter medication or medication available only on prescription. We’ll look at the last two here and the former on the sleep-medications  page.

Things to consider:

Before taking any kind of sleep medicine, its always a good idea to try and understand why you’re not sleeping well. Is it due to chronic pain or discomfort? If so a simple pain medication may be better for you as these are non habit forming.

The pain relievers such as Anancin, Excedrin and Tylenol also have an ingredient which causes drowsiness, so try these first if ordinary pain relief has no affect.

If your sleep problems are caused by a recognized sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea, narcolepsy or restless legs syndrome, you need more specialised help. There are other ways these disorders can be managed apart from taking sleep disorder medicine. Your treatment may indeed include sleep medicine of some sort, but its important to address the problem itself first.

Women who are going through menopause often experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. If this fits you, it would be better to address the menopause first. HRT is one option or there are plenty of natural and herbal remedies as well, some better than others. Ask your doctor, you may find your sleeping problems ease naturally.

Stress is one of the most common causes of insomnia. Try relaxation techniques and visit the stress page for more information. Yoga or qigong are both excellent for reducing stress. See your doctor for short term help if you feel you really can’t cope. You will probably be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication which will probably solve your sleeping problems at the same time. Don’t take sleep medicine and anti-anxiety medicine together unless advised by your doctor

If you have been taking sleep medicines for a while and find that you have become addicted and they are simply not working anymore, the best thing to do is ease off very gradually. You will probably have a few bad nights during withdrawal.

Do not stop taking any sleep disorder medicines suddenly and see your doctor for any problems. Natural sleep remedies may help here.

There are also over the counter and herbal sleep remedies which you could try. These vary greatly and are non habit forming, so explore these as well, you may find a solution here.

Armed with the above, there are questions you should ask you doctor or health professional:

  1. How long is it safe to take this medication for?
  2. What side effects can it cause?
  3. Can it react with other medications?
  4. I’m pregnant, will this medication have any harmful effect on my condition?
  5. Will this medication help my particular sleep disorder?

Over the counter sleep disorder medicine

This includes brands such as Nytol and Sominex among others. These contain an antihistamine which causes drowsiness.

Although they are not considered habit forming, antihistamines do have side effects in some people. These can be daytime drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth and breathing difficulties. Avoid these if you have any heart irregularities or lung problems.

Prescription sleep medicine

The sleep medicine Lunesta (Eszopiclone) hit the shelves in the US a few years ago, the manufacturing company Sepracor is still testing this medication.

So far it’s all looking pretty good. Lunesta is not a narcotic and seems to help both those who have trouble falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia) as well as those who have trouble staying asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia). Most medications can only work for one or the other.

Lunesta – at the time of writing – is the only prescription sleep medicine approved for long term use. Tests have shown that when patients stop using Lunesta, there is no rebound insomnia which is common with the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Lunesta does not appear to be habit forming.

This means those with severe chronic insomnia can successfully be treated with Lunesta.

Sidebar - It is possible to become physiologically addicted to anything. This isn’t the same as physical addiction.

Take Lunesta just before retiring as it is fast acting. Also make sure you have a good eight hours set aside to sleep as Lunesta is also long lasting.

Pregnant or breast feeding women should seek medical advice as the effect of Lunesta on infants is not known.

Sidebar - Lunesta is not for everyone. Some swear by it. others say it is useless. Like every medicine it works better for some than others. Lunesta is also quite expensive.

Other sleep disorder medicines can be divided into two types as follows:

  • Benzodiazepines These are the most commonly prescribed and are considered the “safest” type of sleep medicine. They still have side effects though. These include daytime sleepiness, memory lapses and possible breathing difficulties.Normal sleep patterns can also be disrupted which may lead to altered mood states during the day. A couple of caveats to remember with benzodiazepines, never consume alcohol while taking them, the combination can be very dangerous. Also don’t drive a car or operate machinery while the hypnotic is still in your system.Sleep medicines in this group include Ativan, Xanax Halcion and Restoril.
  • Non benzodiazepines This group has the advantage of being less addictive than the above. The possible side effects are greater though. These include headaches, nausea, bad dreams and dizziness.They don’t disrupt out normal sleep rhythms as do the benzodiazepines. This group is also shorter acting than the benzodiazepines, meaning they leave the bloodstream faster so there is less morning grogginess.

    Sleep medicines in this group include Ambien, Imovane and Sonata. Sonata is the shortest acting of these and is not suitable for those who fall asleep quickly but wake during the night. It is only suitable for those that need to fall asleep. However Sonata may be useful for those who wake in the middle of the night and who have not taken any previous medicine that night.

Use sleep disorder medicine as a last resort, take the lowest dose that you can to maintain sleep and don’t take it for more than two weeks (Lunesta excepted)

Some people use sleep medicine occasionally when they need it. If this is you, make sure you really do need it before reaching out for that bottle. Its very tempting to take something when its there! Sometimes just knowing you have sleep medicine on hand can be reassuring enough to allow you to sleep better.

Whatever your situation use it with care and remember you’re in charge, not your medication. Don’t let it call the shots!

If you are currently using one of the above sleep disorder medicines above and would like to stop, there is an alternative called “Serenite Plus” This non habit forming medication is very effective and will help you get off the roller-coaster of hypnotic medications. Read about SerenitePlus here and reassure yourself about the natural ingredients, effectiveness and safety of this product.

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