Maintaining Good Health Even When You're Busy

How To Take Sleep Medications Responsibly

by Caitlin Obara

If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep problems, then taking medication can really help. Medications can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. However, sleep medication can sometimes cause side effects, and some medications can lead to dependency. There are, therefore, a few tips you should follow in order to take sleep medications responsibly.

Try over-the-counter solutions first.

Before you visit the doctor and ask them to prescribe a hard-hitting, prescription-only sleep medication, try an over-the-counter option. Diphenhydramine is a common one. It rarely causes side effects, and it is not addictive. The same tends to be true of other over-the-counter sleep meds; this is why you don't need a prescription to take them. These medications do not work for everyone, but since they are the safest and easiest option, it's worth giving them a try to see if they work for you.

Combine the medication with a good sleep routine.

Whether you stick with an over-the-counter medication or upgrade to a prescription, make sure you're not using the medication as a substitute for a good sleep routine. Turn the lights off. Put your phone down an hour before bedtime. Play some relaxing music, and try to go to bed at the same time every night. Sleep medications are most powerful when used as a supplement to these routines. If you use the medication without these routines, you may assume it's less effective and that you need a bigger dose, when really the problem is that you need to improve your sleep routine alongside the medication.

Never increase your dose without checking with your doctor.

Generally, when a doctor prescribes a sleep medication, they initially prescribe the smallest recommended dose. Give this dose a try, and see how it works for you. But if you don't feel it is working, check in with your doctor; don't just increase the dose on your own. Your doctor will know what dose you should try next. They may actually recommend adding a second medication instead of taking more of this first one. Plus, there may be additional side effects you need to watch out for at a higher dose, and your doctor can make you aware of those. 

If you follow the tips above, you'll be taking a more responsible approach to sleep medication use. These medications can work well, but you need to follow your doctor's recommendations and use them as a supplement to good sleep habits, not a replacement.

To learn more about sleep medicine, talk to your doctor.