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Reasons for taking sleeping tablets

10th June 2019

There’s nothing worse than lying awake at night, tossing and turning and counting down the hours until you have to be up. And while for most of us, this is a rarity (due to stress or situational anxiety), it’s a regular occurrence for many.

How do sleeping tablets work?

There are a number of different kinds of tablets that can help you sleep, some over the counter and some prescription. And the various different kinds of sleeping tablets can help insomnia in a number of ways.

A lot of over the counter remedies mainly work by causing drowsiness. Sedating antihistamines are a popular category of sleeping tablet, which people can also use to treat allergies. However, because of the drowsiness that they cause, most people will opt for a nonsedating antihistamine when treating allergies.

Because these medicines work by causing drowsiness, they are very useful at helping people to fall asleep, as they provide a calming and soothing effect. However, they aren’t all too useful at helping you stay asleep.

If you don’t just have problems getting to sleep but also with sleeping through the night then you may want to consider a hypnotic drug, which are a group of prescription-only sleeping tablets. The most common hypnotics are Zolpidem and Zopiclone and these are highly effective but do come with a warning label regarding dependency and long-term side effects. For this reason, doctors will normally only prescriber hypnotics for insomnia that is long-lasting and causing the patient severe problems.

Another effective sleeping tablet is one that mimics the body’s natural sleep-wake hormone, melatonin. This synthetic version of our body’s natural substance helps to regulate our body clock and is especially good for those who are experiencing insomnia due to jet lag.

Who should take sleeping tablets?

There are a variety of reasons that you may find yourself needing to take sleeping tablets. Underlying health problems such as chronic pain or tinnitus can make it near impossible for sufferers to enjoy a good night's sleep.

Medications (for pre-existing medical conditions or otherwise) can also interrupt your sleep, with common culprits including beta-blockers and decongestants.

Your mental health can greatly affect your ability to get the recommended 6-8 hours per night and being stressed, depressed or suffering with anxiety can all prevent you from achieving this.

Sometimes insomnia is caused by more mundane things though that you may be able to remedy yourself, without the need for sleeping tablets. Excessive caffeine intake (particularly if it’s late in the day) can mess with your sleeping pattern, as can eating or drinking too close to bedtime. If you’re noticing any patterns with this, try to avoid any triggers and arrange your eating schedule around when you plan to go to bed.

Insomnia can also be caused by trying to sleep in a bright or noisy room, so it’s always worth assessing your sleeping environment and lifestyle choices before going to a doctor for a prescription for sleeping tablets.

If you do get a prescription for sleeping tablets from a doctor then ensure you follow all relevant guidelines, instructions and advice and refer back to the patient information leaflet if you’re unsure.