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People often turn to sleep aids when they have trouble sleeping. While these can be a short term solution for insomnia or a work shift change, they are usually not recommended for long term use.

Woman In Pyjamas Taking Pill

The National Sleep Foundation recommends caution when taking over-the-counter medications for sleep. They have a limited effectiveness over long term use and people taking them often still feel the effects of the medication the next day, resulting in sleepiness.

The NSF categorizes sleep medications into categories:

  • Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, enhance the action of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that slows brain activity.
  • Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, such as Ambien and Lunesta, affect only specific parts of the GABA receptor.
  • Antidepressants like Asendin alter brain chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine and have a strong sedative effect.
  • Diphenhydramine, like Benadryl, is the most common over-the-counter sleep aid. It is an antihistamine that also causes drowsiness.
  • Melatonin can also be purchased over-the-counter and alters the circadian clock to aid sleep.
  • Orexin receptor antagonists, currently only Belsomra, block the chemical orexin in the brain, which inhibits arousal, and is one of the newest sleep aids.


Using Sleep Aids Safely

It is important to consult with your doctor before prescribing over-the-counter sleep aids to yourself for long-term use. Short term use of sleep aids could be a good idea if your insomnia is short term and you know the cause, such as traveling across time zones, changes to your work schedule, or because of special short-term events that cause you anxiety.

Before turning to sleep aids, try behavioral changes first. Develop a nighttime routine to promote sleep. Engage in restful activities before bed and get enough exercise during the day. Wait to get into bed until you feel tired. Sleep aids are not replacements for healthy sleep habits, so it is important to develop proper sleep hygiene before turning to sleep aids to manage insomnia symptoms.


Long-term Insomnia

If your long term insomnia still persists despite behavioral changes, talk to your doctor to determine the cause and possibly get a prescription for sleep aids. Most doctors agree that sleep aids should not be used indefinitely. Remember to always follow the safety guidelines given by your doctor and the packaging on the prescription to maintain your personal health the best way you can.

You don’t have to accept insomnia as part of your life. It affects everything from work and productivity to social interactions and personal relationships. Get help when you need it, but use caution when turning to sleep aids that are not prescribed by your doctor.


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"I recommend them highly!! I took my 2 year old daughter for a sleep study and was very impressed. Our sleep technician was amazing with her, very patient and kind. The DVD we brought to watch while getting her hooked up got stuck in the TV and they vowed to return it. We got a call the next day checking on our daughter and saying how sweet she was, they mentioned the DVD. Several days later, we received the DVD plus a new copy of the Lion King with a nice note. They are very good at what they do and if they can make a 2 year old feel at ease, they can probably do the same with anyone!!"

Anthea S.

Tempe, AZ

"Great staff, they make you feel so at home. Every medical facility should be this nice. Felt like a nice hotel. Someone has great taste in decorating. Thanks for making us feel at home."

Steve N.

San Diego, CA

"I was especially impressed with Andrew the Respiratory Therapist who reviewed my study with me and answered my questions. Andrew thoroughly explained everything about the Cpap machine-from start to finish. I never felt rushed and was assured I could contact him with any additional questions or needs. Andrew told me he would follow up with a call in a week and he did. I believe this center performed the study appropriately and the added benefit of having Andrew teach me about the machine and what to expect was a bonus."

Candace M.

Scottsdale, AZ