Americans are notoriously short on time, struggling to keep track of obligations to work and family while still having some time for play and exercise. In our increasingly busy environment, it seems more and more difficult to find time for a good night’s sleep. And when we do lie down, many of us wind up staring at the ceiling worrying about those obligations, rather than getting the sleep we need to be able to fulfill them.
At the same time, TV commercials and drug store shelves are promising a good night’s sleep in a pill. But are sleeping pills safe? Do we know exactly how sleeping pills work? I’ve already covered some of the potential sleeping pill dangers on this blog. In this post, we’ll explore when sleeping pills work and why; in future posts I’ll have a look at how common over the counter (OTC) pills and prescription pills get the job done.
How Sleeping Pills Work
Sleeping pills work in different ways, so you may have to experiment with more than one medication (preferably under the care of a doctor) to find a pill that works for you. Some function purely as sedatives, while others alter neurochemistry or levels of drowsiness-producing hormones. To be sure you understand how your pill of choice works, read up on the brand name, the active ingredient, and the drug class to make sure you know what this particular drug is doing to your body.
Different sleeping pills work on different parts of the brain, so a particular pill may or may not actually fix the biological cause of your sleep difficulty, even if the sedative effect of the drug is strong enough to let you sleep all night long. Some will actually worsen sleep quality even while they keep you asleep – so though you may get some sleep, you’re not necessarily getting deep, restorative sleep that’s worth getting.
Getting the Most Out of Sleeping Pills
According to Sutter Health, sleeping pills are most effective when used for a short time to help you break out of a cycle of bad sleep habits. But over time, pills won’t work nearly as well as lifestyle and behavior changes to help you sleep well in the long term. To help yourself sleep better, practice good sleep hygiene and keep to a quality sleep routine – you’ll sleep better and feel better than you would with sleeping pills alone.