Many of us have trouble falling and staying asleep every night. In the United States, up to 44% of certain regions, the Deep South and the Appalachia region(s) specifically. (cdc.gov) Other areas of the nation are more fortunate, but as with any broad overview, it ignores the millions of people within “better sleeping” states that have trouble sleeping. The point being: it’s an invasive and common issue. So, what are the solutions; what can we do to better our sleep in a healthy and sustainable way? If you’re an individual with sleep issues, there are several routes you could go down. The “easiest” method is to limit your electronic device exposure before bed, so the Smart Phone should be out of reach, and the TV turned off while the ambient lights are dimmed or turned off completely. It can be extremely hard to “just say no” to your Twitter or Instagram, but it helps- tremendously. The second method would be to find an over the counter (OTC) remedy, such Melatonin, antihistamines like Benadryl, or more obscure products, such as Kava. These all can work, but people have variable body chemistries, so what works for you may not work at all for someone else.
This brings us to the third, often final, method in the struggle against insomnia and inability to stay asleep: the prescription medications. Seroquel is/was intended as an antipsychotic, but at low doses, it acts as something of a powerful antihistamine. For what it’s worth, there’s controversy within the medical community as to whether Seroquel is overprescribed for sleep issues, or whether it should be prescribed at all. That leads us to the heavy guns: benzos and hypnotics. Specific benzodiazepines (the family of drugs that include Valium and Xanax) like Restoril (Temazepam) are highly potent and effective, but they can cause a slew of issues through long term use. Hypnotics like Ambien and Lunesta are also highly effective, but they should not be used continuously for more than two weeks (according to its label) and failure to abide by these rules will likely result in “rebound” insomnia. Further, When Ambien first became hugely prevalent in the mid 2000’s, there were famous cases of people getting out of bed and driving on it (without remembering) amongst other strange and dangerous antics.
Overall, the more potent the remedy, the more potent the side effects, generally speaking. For some, drugs like Ambien and Restoril are warranted and extremely necessary, but for others, making small, but crucial changes to one’s bedtime routine can work wonders. It’s hard to disconnect from life because of the advent of the Smart Phone, but putting that extra effort in to do so may allow you to have a much higher quality of sleep.