Difficulty in sleeping is something most of us will experience at some time in our lives. The causes can range from things such as worry over temporary difficulties and problems as well as discomfort from pain or minor illness.
When the lack of sleep becomes persistent (insomnia) there may well be a psychological cause such as depression, anxiety or the discomfort from continual pain from a physical illness, that makes sleep almost impossible.
As I have said most of us experience odd bouts of sleeplessness and many of us have our own way of dropping off, examples of these could be a hot drink, or a hot bath, etc. however, alcohol would not be one of them and would only make the problem worse.
There is also complimentary recipes such as camomile and lavender, or maybe a massage to mention more. If all the self-help remedies have failed, and the lack of sleep is taking its toll on your general health then sleeping drugs may be used by your doctor to restore sleeping patterns. However, these kind of drugs should not be used over long periods of time as their effectiveness diminishes with time. (3 to 4 weeks). There is also a temptation to increase the dosage to see if early benefits of the drug can be felt.
How sleeping drugs work
Most sleeping drugs work by interfering with the chemical activity in the brain, and nervous system. This is done by reducing communication between nerve cells. This in turn reduces brain activity allowing the you to fall asleep more easily. However, how you sleep or what kind of sleep you get is affected by the sleeping drug its self.
Both dream sleep and non dream sleep are essential to a good nights sleep. Drug induced sleep stops this natural sleep cycle from working. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly used sleeping drug. This is because it is believed that they have comparatively few side effects, it is also believed they are relatively safe if overdose should occur. Because of their sedative effects doctors use them to treat anxiety as one of the most common complaints in anxiety, is the loss of sleep.
Some people report sleeping drugs make them appear drunk or have slowed reactions, drowsiness. This could be so if the drugs are taken, and then there is a delay in going to bed. Documentation would show that most people fall asleep with hour of taking their medication.
Drug induced sleep is not the same as a normal sleep pattern, some people may experience feelings very much like a hangover while others report dizziness, unsteadiness, daytime drowsiness, these kind of symptoms would impair your ability to drive or operate machinery. I have friends that would tell you although they do sleep with the help of these drugs, when they get up the next morning a feeling of being ‘washed out’ stays with them until mid-morning. Elderly people may become confused while taking this medication as a sleep remedy.
It is known that these drugs suppress brain activity, and that part of sleep that is known as (REM) random eye movement, (dream sleep) does not seem to take place leaving you feeling washed out the next day which is the result of suppressed brain activity during the sleep cycle. Sleeping habits can also change in the first few days after an abrupt withdrawal of sleeping drugs, after regular and prolonged use.
Other than antihistamines most sleeping drugs can produce psychological and physical dependency when taken over a prolonged time period (weeks). This will become more apparent if larger than average doses are taken. After taking sleeping drugs over a prolonged period they becomes less effective, and there could be a temptation to take larger doses to recapture earlier felt benefits. If sleeping drugs where to be suddenly stopped problems such as anxiety, convulsions and hallucinations could occur. Anyone who has taken sleeping drugs over a period of time should consult with their doctor, and seek advice on how to reduce these tablets gradually, to avoid their side effects.
Types of sleeping drugs.
This class of drugs is the one most commonly used for sleeping disorders and they’re very effective in what they do. Known to have comparatively few adverse effects on the individual they’re also known to be relatively safe as far as overdose is concerned. It is also worth mentioning that benzodiazepines are also used to treat anxiety.
This drug group is rarely used these days, mainly because of its risk of abuse, there is also a risk of high dependency and toxicity in overdose. There is also risk of the drugs effects being carried over into the next day. for example, feeling of drunkenness, (hangover) or having slowed reactions have been reported.
These drugs promote sleep very effectively but are not used as much, these days, as they once were. Chloral hydrate has severe side effects on the stomach while triclofos has the same problems however, the severity is not as bad as chloral hydrate.
Other non-benzodiazepines sleeping drugs
These particular brands of sleeping drugs, zopiclone, zalepion and solpidem work in a similar way as benzodiazepines. Not intended for long term use, these drugs have also been reported to cause withdrawal symptoms.
From time to time these drugs are used to promote sleep. However, they’re more widely used to treat hypersensitivity (allergies) to certain substances for example, grass pollen, house dust mites, hives etc.
This drug group may be used to promote sleep in depressed individuals, as well as being very effective in treating an underlying depressive illness.
List of the most common drugs used.
- Chloral hydrate.