Sleep is essential for the body and brain to function properly. Yet so many of us struggle to get a good night’s sleep, and sleeping aids are frequently sought to help in this endeavour. Some sleeping aids are safer and more effective than others, but how do you know which to choose?
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is hugely important for our overall sense of wellbeing as well as physical and psychological health. Many people regularly fail to get a good night’s sleep, and contributing factors to this include stress, snoring, sleep apnoea, a poor sleep environment, bad bedtime habits, excess food and alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, and drug use.
With adequate, high-quality sleep, overall health, learning capacity, creativity, memory, and decision-making skills are maximised. Without good quality sleep, however, one can experience issues such as daytime tiredness and moodiness, lack of concentration, memory issues, increased risk of accident and injury, and increased likelihood of developing diseases including depression, Type II Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and other major health concerns.
Good sleep habits are the first step to a good night’s restful sleep. If these are not enough, an appropriate sleeping aid can help.
Various sleeping aids are available. These can be very effective when used properly and some of these should not be relied upon all the time.
Some common sleeping aids include:
- Melatonin – this is a natural hormone. It is triggered within the body by darkness and it controls the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplementation can temporarily help with sleep issues that are related to jet lag and shift work. It can, however, have side effects such as daytime sleepiness and headaches.
- Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids – these medications generally contain antihistamines, which help promote sleepiness. They can be very effective, however, they are not suitable for long-term ongoing use and they do have side effects that can be an issue. These include grogginess, a dry mouth, blurred vision, forgetfulness, and even constipation.
- Prescription Sleeping Pills – these include hypnotic drugs and benzodiazepines. These are very habit-forming. They are available only with a prescription from your doctor, and they must be used with extreme caution and exactly as prescribed, as misuse can be harmful or even fatal. They should not be used as a long-term solution to insomnia.
- Valerian Root – this is a herbal supplement that has been used as a sleep aid for thousands of years; anecdotally it is very effective. It appears to be generally free of side effects, though some users report experiencing very vivid dreams and deep yet unrestful sleep. Valerian Root’s therapeutic value is unproven by scientific studies and users need to know that it can interfere with statin drugs and antihistamines.
- Stop Snoring Devices – One of the biggest contributors to poor quality sleep is snoring. A medical-grade, high-quality stop snoring device can help to alleviate snoring and prevent disruption to sleep.
Why Sedatives can be Dangerous
Some people use sedatives to alleviate their insomnia. These must always be used with extreme caution, only as a last resort, and only under the care of a doctor, as they can be very harmful if relied upon too heavily or if they are misused.
Sleeping pills (even those available over the counter) can be tolerance-building; this means that the longer they are used, the less effective they will be. They can have associated side effects including compromised REM sleep and a “hangover” the following day, and they may interact with other medications. Some medical conditions are incompatible with using sedatives, including asthma, pulmonary disease, sleep apnoea, liver disease, and others.
Risks of relying on sleeping pills include:
- Hangover effect
- Rebound insomnia
- Allergic reactions
- Drug interactions
- Possible link to dementia
- Suicidal thoughts
They may also mask other health issues.
Over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills can be used by some as a short-term solution for sleeplessness. Lifestyle changes, however, are by far the best solution to insomnia.
Natural Sleep Aids
Valerian and Melatonin are natural sleeping aids. Other natural ways to promote sleep include:
- Darken your room. Remove sources of light from the view of the bed, including digital clocks.
- Don’t have a TV in your bedroom.
- Have an ideal room temperature for sleep – cool but not cold.
- Have a warm milk drink or chamomile tea before bed.
- Use lavender essential oil (a few drops in a hot bath, sprinkled on your pillow, or in an oil diffuser).
- Try natural supplements that include lemon balm, chamomile, lavender and passionflower.
- Magnesium is great for brain health and improves sleep quality.
Adopt Good Habits for Great Sleep
- Learn to manage stress effectively (see our previous blog article discussing this).
- Don’t eat within at least three hours of bedtime.
- Go to sleep at the same time each night
- Get up at the same time each morning.
- Avoid daytime napping.
- Avoid caffeine after 4 pm.
- Avoid cigarette smoking.
- Moderate alcohol consumption.
- Avoid using sedative drugs.
- Don’t use computers, phones, and other backlit screens at bedtime or in bed.
See your doctor to identify the cause of your sleep issues.
If you snore, purchase and use a medical-grade device to stop snoring.
Use ApneaRX to Stop Snoring
ApneaRX is an innovative, medical-grade stop snoring device which can be an effective sleeping aid in people for whom snoring and sleep apnoea are a problem. It repositions the lower jaw to help open the airways and may effectively alleviate snoring. Visit our website to purchase ApneaRX and to access more information to help get a better night’s sleep. Contact us to learn more.