How To Use Sleep Medications Safely
Alex Dimitriu, Psychiatrist
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Medical Disclaimer: The content on this page should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for any specific medication. Always consult your doctor before taking any new medication or changing your current dosage.
Sleep medications are one of the most common treatments for insomnia. Used properly, they can be a helpful way of drifting off on nights when sleep is difficult.
Unfortunately, studies have found that many people develop unsafe habits regarding sleep aids. By working with a doctor and understanding the risks associated with sleep medications, you can minimize your chances of unwanted side effects.
What Can I Do Now
As you begin to treat your sleep problems, try to find the underlying cause. Be aware of whats triggering poor sleep, such as stress, noise, or discomfort. Keeping a sleep journal can help you assess your sleeping habits and look at areas for improvement.
Natural sleep aids should only be used as a short-term solution. If your sleep problems continue, they may be a sign of an underlying medical concern.
You should consult your doctor if your sleep troubles persist or increase in severity. Be sure to bring your sleep journal. Your doctor can use your observations to help make a diagnosis.
Remember that side effects and risks are possible, even with natural products. Always use a reputable brand. Also speak with your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.
If you arent already, allow yourself to get into a habit of winding down and relaxing each night. Taking your chosen sleep aid at a certain time can be a reminder to slow down the pace, unwind, and prepare for a full nights rest.
Diet Tips To Improve Sleep
Limit caffeine late in the day. Avoid coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate late in the day.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It might seem that alcohol makes you sleepy, but it will actually disrupt your sleep.
Satisfy your hunger prior to bed. Have a light snack such as low-sugar cereal, yogurt, or warm milk.
Cut down on sugary foods. Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, pasta, and French fries can cause wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
Avoid big meals or spicy foods just before bedtime. Large or spicy meals may lead to indigestion or discomfort. Try to eat a modest-size dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Minimize liquid intake before sleep. Limit what you drink within the hour and a half before bedtime to limit how often you wake up to use the bathroom at night.
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Efficacy And Safety Of Otc Sleep Aid Use
Similarly, the risks and benefits of OTC sleep aids for the treatment of disturbed sleep in elderly adults have not been systematically examined in randomized controlled trials. There are no published controlled trials examining the use of doxylamine for the treatment of sleeplessness. Small controlled trials of diphenhydramine 50mg are available but the results are equivocal. The most positive published trial supporting the use of diphenhydramine as a sleep aid found that diphenhydramine 50mg significantly improved patient reports of disturbed sleep, including sleep latency and reports of feeling more rested the following morning. Patients in the trial also reported that they preferred diphenhydramine to placebo despite experiencing more side effects . Other published data using both patient reports and objective measures of sleep, however, are less positive . This limited efficacy should be considered in light of the negative residual and anticholinergic side effects associated with diphenhydramine use. For example, in a nursing home population, diphenhydramine was associated with significant psychomotor and cognitive function impairments compared with placebo . While diphenhydramine improved sleep latency relative to placebo, there were no other significant benefits.
Tip : Reduce Mental Stress
Stress and anxiety built up during the day can also interfere with sleep at night. Its important to learn how to let go of thoughts and worries when its time to sleep.
- Keep a journal to record worries before you retire.
- On your to-do list, check off tasks completed, list your goals for tomorrow, and then let them go.
- Listen to calming music.
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Best Natural Sleep Remedies For Elderly People
As we age, we change and so does our sleep patterns, National Sleep Foundation has stated that about 44% of elderly people experience some kind of sleep issues at least a few nights in a week. Waking up a few times in the night is natural for senior citizens but when they find it hard to actually fall asleep or have a condition when they are tired all day due to lack of sleep, there are natural ways to get a steady sleeping cycle.
Despite people knowing the importance of quality and quantity of sleeping no one seems to give it much of a thought.
Before starting on any remedies, keep this in mind, good sleep begins with good habits and good sleeping practices.
If you are reading this natural sleep remedies for elderly people article for yourself or to help a loved one- instead of going through physical and mental health issues such as sundowning, dementia, and Alzheimers disease. and surrendering what is left of your life to medicines and endless visits to doctors clinic, start today. We can help.
Over The Counter Sleep Medications
There is a wide variety of over-the-counter sleep aids available. The Mayo Clinic provides examples of OTC sleep aid options that members of the geriatric community commonly use, some of which include the following:
- Diphenhydramine : Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine. Side effects might include daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and urinary retention.
- Doxylamine: Doxylamine is also a sedating antihistamine. Side effects are like those of diphenhydramine.
- Melatonin: The hormone melatonin helps control ones natural sleep-wake cycle. Side effects can include headaches and daytime sleepiness.
- Valerian: Supplements made from this plant are sometimes taken as sleep aids. The efficacy remains controversial as few studies indicate therapeutic benefits, while other studies have not found the same benefits.
Most OTC sleeping aid medications contain antihistamines to produce their sedative effects.
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Does Valerian Root Work
Some clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of certain valerian root supplements for improving sleep quality and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, according to the American Botanical Council.
Although valerian root is a popular natural sleep aid, studies have not yet shown which chemical components cause its potential sleep-promoting and sedative effects. However, one theory being studied is that valerian potentially releases GABA in the brain and may block the enzyme that destroys GABA, which may cause sedative effects in either case.
Try it or skip it? The results of existing studies regarding valerian roots effectiveness as a sleep aid are inconsistent, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. However, some research suggests that valerian root may effectively improve the quality of sleep and reduce sleep latency without problematic side effects.
The Relevance Of Sleep Support Plusbest Over The Counter Sleep Aid For Seniors
The majority of the common health concerns are caused by lack of sleep. Practically every person had problem with this problem of sleep deprivation. When you do not meet the remainder that your body demands. It can genuinely influence an individuals total health and wellness. Lack of sleep has a substantial impact on human lives. Mainly it can influence just how individuals would assume and also really feel, which will certainly place mental, emotional, as well as physical health in jeopardy.Sleeping Tablets Zopiclone Nhs
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However, prescription medicines to treat insomnia have side effects, such as daytime drowsiness. They can increase the risk for falls, hip fractures, and accidents in older adults, so these medicines usually arent recommended for long periods of time. Talk to your parents doctor about which prescription medicines are safest.
Allegra Comas Acsw Ma
Allegra is an Associate Clinical Social Worker. She earned her masters in social work at Smith College in 2019, and her first masters degree in women and gender studies from San Francisco State University in 2008. Allegra worked as a high school literacy specialist in the Bay Area for six years prior to becoming a clinical social worker/psychotherapist. She is a Los Angeles native, and has dedicated her professional life to community and family services. She is psychodynamically trained, trauma informed and emphasizes the intersection of culture, gender, and sexuality in her clinical practice.
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How Can You Find Safe Natural Sleep Aids
Finding dependable natural sleep aids can be a challenge given the huge range of brands and products on the market. Being a cautious shopper can reduce the risk of taking mislabeled or tainted supplements.
Start by looking carefully at the products ingredient list. Remember that product labels may use terms like natural, verified, or certified in ways that are not strictly defined or regulated.
Customers who want to research specific products can contact the manufacturer of a natural sleep aid and ask for documentation about testing and safety. Information about quality assurance in the manufacturing process can also be illuminating in some cases.
Some third-party organizations provide seals of approval for supplements that have been tested. This is not a guarantee of a products safety, but it does indicate that it has been subject to additional scrutiny. Organizations like ConsumerLab.com, US Pharmacopeia , and the NSF International Dietary Supplement program are among the most well-regarded certifications.
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Safe Sleep Aids For Seniors
Older people do not sleep as well as younger people do. The elderly may spend more time in bed, but less of that time is actually spent sleeping. They fall asleep in about the same amount of time, but they wake up more frequently. They also spend less time in the phase of sleep that is thought to be important to recovering from fatigue.
Many seniors try using over-the-counter sleeping pills. Unfortunately, many of these medications have harmful side effects. Most belong to a class of medication called antihistamines, like diphenhydramine . Antihistamines are also used to treat allergies. One of the major side effects of antihistamines is sedation. Drug companies take advantage of this side effect and promote antihistamines as sleep aids.
Besides drowsiness, antihistamines can cause dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention , and confusion. Antihistamines have also been linked to falling among elderly people.
Another way to deal with sleeping problems just involves changing your sleeping habits. You should avoid all drinks that have caffeine in them and try to limit amount of fluids you drink 3-4 hours before your bedtime. You should use your bed for sleeping only: Never read or watch television in bed. Also try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
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Pharmacokinetics Of Otc Sleep Aids
Data describing the pharmacokinetics of OTC sleep aids are scarce. Available data are limited to diphenhydramine. Because older adults may have slower metabolism and clearance than younger adults, medication half-lives tend to be prolonged, and peak concentrations tend to be higher in older adults. Data suggest this is the case for diphenhydramine as well. An early study reported that diphenhydramine has a half-life of 9.2hr in adults , rising to 13.5hr in elderly adults . However, another study found the half-life to range from 4.1hr in young adults to 7.4hr in older adults . A review published in 1986 found a reported half-life range for diphenhydramine from 3.3 to 9.3hr .
Insomnia In Elderly Adults: Causes And Prevention
Everyone experiences an occasional restless night, but if your aging parent regularly has trouble falling or staying asleep, theyre not alone. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders in seniors. In fact, up to 48% of older adults have symptoms of insomnia, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
People with chronic insomnia may have trouble falling asleep. Others wake up several times during the night, or wake up too early and are unable to fall back asleep. During the day, they often feel fatigued, are irritable, and have poor concentration and energy. Chronic insomnia also increases the risk of accidents such as falls and other health conditions, like depression, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive impairment.
Understanding the causes of insomnia in your elderly parent and changing certain habits can help improve sleep. If your loved one regularly has sleep problems, there are steps you can take to help them get better rest at night.
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More About Medication Use
In all, 14 percent of the poll respondents said they regularly took a prescription sleep medication, prescription pain medication, over-the-counter sleep aid or herbal supplement to help them sleep. An additional 23 percent took one of these options occasionally most of the occasional users said they chose over-the-counter sleep aids.
The most recent Beers Criteria established by the American Geriatrics Society, which guides the use of medications among older people, gives a strong warning against use of prescription sleep drugs, which are sold under such names as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata.
Meanwhile, even though over-the-counter sleep aids do not require a doctors guidance or prescription to purchase, they still carry health risks for older people, Malani notes. Most of them contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that can cause side effects such as confusion, urinary retention and constipation.
Among poll respondents with frequent sleep problems who took something occasionally to help them sleep, over-the-counter sleep remedies were the most common choice. But for those with frequent sleep issues who took something regularly to try to sleep, prescription sleep medications were the most common option, with 17 percent reporting use.
What Is The Safest Sleep Aid
Among the different families of sleep medications, newer medications are generally considered safer than older ones. However, the safest sleep aid for each individual will depend on their age, health, and other personal factors:
Many people assume OTC sleep aids are the safest sleep medications because they are available without a prescription. However, OTC sleep aids may still have serious side effects. Moreover, medications and herbal supplements that are not approved for insomnia by the FDA may carry additional risks. It is strongly advised to consult a doctor before using OTC medications or natural sleep aids.
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Are There Risks Associated With Taking Melatonin
Melatonin, like all natural dietary supplements, is unregulated and untested for long-term use in humans. Some people find that melatonin causes grogginess and depression. Others report falling asleep quickly with melatonin only to awaken in the middle of the night. Still, studies show that melatonin appears to be safe with short-term use .
More Holistic Strategies To Help Seniors Sleep Better
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule. Try to avoid going to bed early on some days while playing the night owl on the weekends. Instead, practice getting into bed and going to sleep at the same, set time each day.
Create a Bedtime Routine. Set the mood for sleep by developing a soothing nighttime routine. For example, you might take a warm bath, light a candle, play some soft soothing music, or read in bed to get your brain ready to wind down.
Track Your Sleep. Consider tracking your sleep with a Fitbit or smartwatch to identify sleep patterns and try to assess where your sleep schedule is getting thrown off. Are you tossing and turning after nighttime bathroom breaks? Or perhaps you have sleep apnea without being aware. Some trackers can even record your breathing or snoring and can help you evaluate if youre getting enough deep REM sleep or are only getting light sleep, which can make you feel drowsy throughout the day.
Get a White Noise Machine. Some people find white noise helpful in drowning out nighttime distractions, such as outside traffic, barking dogs, or a snoring partner that may otherwise keep you up at night. Comfortable earplugs may be worth a try too!
Adjust Your Lighting for Sleep. Try switching to low-watt bulbs with soft, warm lighting in your bedroom and avoid bright overhead lighting.
Dont Deny Yourself. While you dont want to be eating a heavy meal before bed, its still important to make sure you dont starve yourself and eat a healthy, filling dinner.
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Cant Sleep Dont Stress Out
It can be easy to become increasingly more upset and stressed when you continue to look at the clock and watch the hours tick away while you stay awake and wonder why you cant fall asleep as you wish you could!
However, boosting your stress levels will only make sleep even more challenging. Instead, try some meditative deep breathing exercises and relax. While regularly getting sleep is important to overall health, one bad night of sleep isnt the end-all.
Do your best to utilize some of the sleep suggestions detailed in this article and if need be, try some of the senior-friendly natural sleep remedies outlined above.
Do you have any tips for getting to sleep when youre tossing and turning? Any great natural sleep remedies for the elderly that we overlooked? Share your thoughts in the comments below!