People often ask whether sleeping tablets such as Ambien and others are a safe way to fall asleep faster, and if there are any natural sleep remedies that are just as effective. This article is designed to teach you about how sleeping tablets affect your body, as well as help you discover natural sleep aids to achieve a full and refreshing night’s rest all on your own.
Sleep is Something Our Bodies Do Naturally
Sleep is an essential function for many living things, and if we don’t get enough, our bodies actually begin to deteriorate. It affects everything from our ability to focus, remember, and perform physical activity to organ function and healthy bodily processes — all the way down to the cellular level. Many people find it only natural to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night, while for others, such as people with insomnia and occasional sleeping difficulties, proper sleep can be much harder to achieve. Check out our article on Insomnia to learn more about this condition and how it can inhibit normal sleeping habits.
A popular solution to sleeping difficulties today is to take a sleeping pill. There are some over the counter sleeping pills available, while many others require a prescription from a doctor. Sleeping tablets promote drowsiness and can effectively help a person fall asleep. Considered some of the best sleeping pills UK, drugs such as zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo), eszopiclone (Lunesta), doxepine (Silenor), suvorexant (Belsomra), zaleplon (Sonata), ramelteon (Rozerem), and others may have different mechanisms to induce sleep, but the desired effect is generally the same — to cause drowsiness and make you sleep.
How Do Sleeping Tablets Work?
From strong sleeping pills to over-the-counter antihistamines, sleeping pills can help overcome insomnia and are useful in a pinch. However, they are not considered a healthy or long-term solution to the body’s natural ability to fall asleep. After all, sleeping pills are drugs, and produce an external effect on the normal processes going on inside of our bodies.
For example, sleeping pills such as Ambien and Lunesta belong to a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics, and, although approved for long-term use, are generally recommended for short treatment periods, such as 2 weeks or less. These drugs work by affecting the natural level of specific chemicals and hormones in the brain, depressing the central nervous system and making you feel drowsy. Another type of drug, such as ramelteon (Rozerem), mimics a natural hormone in the brain known as melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Suvorexant (Belsomra) belongs to a drug class known as dual orexin receptor antagonists, and targets a receptor in the brain that promotes wakefulness under normal conditions. The science behind the various sleeping tablets is complex, and can affect a number of receptors, hormones, and chemicals in the brain.
Are Sleeping Tablets Safe?
Like most doctors should tell you, all drugs come with potential side-effects. While prescription sleep medicine will almost certainly help you fall asleep, there are some extremely important considerations you should take when deciding if sleeping pills are the right choice.
Sleeping tablets come with a wide-range of potential side-effects from mild to serious.
Mild side-effects may include:
- Bad taste
- Dry mouth
- Symptoms of a cold (sneezing, runny nose)
- Tingling or burning sensation in the hands and feet
- Unusual dreams
- Loss of concentration
- Daytime drowsiness
All sleep aid medications comes with the risk of much more serious side-effects, which may include:
- Parasomnia - Sleeping pills have been known to cause parasomnia, which are uncontrollable movements of the body in a sleep-like state. Symptoms include sleepwalking, sleep driving, and other activities that you may have no memory of doing.
- Mood Swings - Sleeping pills may affect your emotions and can cause aggressiveness, anxiety and depression.
- Depression - Symptoms of depression may occur or become worse on sleeping pills. These include sadness, loss of appetite, guilt, loss of interest, loss of focus, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
- Abnormal Thinking - You may experience a sense of confusion or extreme agitation while on sleep medicine.
- Hallucinations - Some sleeping pills have been known to cause visual and auditory hallucinations.
- Memory Loss - You may experience memory loss and other forms of mental impairment as a result of sleeping tablets.
- Allergic Reactions - Severe allergic reactions may occur, which include nausea, vomiting, rash, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the tongue and throat.
- Complications with Other Drugs – When taken with other medications, sleeping pills can increase the chance of serious side-effects and cause additional side-effects, such as impaired brain function.
It is generally not recommended that you take sleeping pills for an extended period of time. Most doctors may prescribe them for several weeks in the hopes that you will get used to sleeping throughout the night and are able to sleep on your own out of habit. Long-term use of sleeping tablets can build a tolerance to their effects, which can make you feel like you need extra dosage and even interfere with your ability to sleep.
Dependence on Sleeping Pills
One of the biggest risks of taking sleeping tablets is the dependence that can develop as a result of long-term use. This includes both physical and psychological dependence, and can cause a person to feel like they are no longer able to fall asleep without taking the drug. This can lead to a debilitating cycle of anxiety, insomnia, and further dependence on sleeping medication.
Natural Sleep Aid
With all the risks and complications involved with prescription and over the counter sleeping pills, you may wonder if there is a far more simple and natural solution to your nagging inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Luckily, there are plenty.
If you suffer from sleeping difficulties, including insomnia, it is strongly recommended that you try natural sleep remedies before resorting to prescription and over the counter sleeping pills, which may have mild-to-serious side-effects and cause dependency.
Natural Sleeping Pills
Wait, there are natural sleeping pills? My doctor certainly forgot to mention that!
Although not technically-defined as natural sleeping tablets, these supplements go a long way towards achieving natural chemical reactions in our bodies and brains which can make us relaxed and sleepy just in time for bed.
If there is one thing nutritionists the world over can agree upon, it’s that people of modern times—by and large—are undergoing a magnesium deficiency. While some even consider it a pandemic, we don’t go so far, but we do highly recommend this vital mineral as a healthy nutritional supplement that benefits the nervous system (among many other things) and may help relieve anxiety and induce relaxation before and during sleep.
The more you learn about sleep, the more you keep hearing about a little natural hormone called melatonin. Our bodies produce melatonin naturally when it gets dark, which is why it is so important to avoid screens such as phones, computers, and televisions for at least an hour before bed. Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle, and when its production is naturally-balanced, we feel sleepy before bed and rested in the morning. Melatonin is a natural sleep aid and can also be taken in supplement form. However, extended use of melatonin supplements is not recommended as it can impact hormone levels. Because our bodies produce melatonin naturally, practicing better sleep hygiene (such as preparing for bed by avoiding screens and blue light, and going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day) can have a wonderful impact on our ability to get a good night’s rest.
5-HTP is a naturally-produced amino acid in our bodies. An imbalance that does not produce enough 5-HTP can cause low serotonin levels, and consequently, low melatonin levels. Because serotonin can be converted into melatonin in the body, 5-HTP can increase the production level of melatonin and allow you to feel naturally-drowsy before bed.
Glycine is a natural amino acid that plays a role in the healthy function of our nervous system. It is believed to slightly reduce body temperature before bed, which prompts sleep, as well as promoting relaxed breathing and heart rate during rest.
Herbal Sleeping Tablets
Based on historical evidence, herbal sleep aids have been used in the past to combat prolonged wakefulness and sleeping disorders. Herbal sleep remedies are a diverse subject and include herbal sleeping pills, dietary herbs, and aromatherapy herbs for sleep.
Valerian root is a popular herb that is widely-used for symptoms such as anxiety, menopause, and depression, as well as to promote natural sleep cycles. It’s considered safe for short-term use and may be helpful in developing healthy sleeping habits.
Possibly the most popular aromatherapy herb around, lavender aromatherapy is considered safe for use and is believed to promote relaxation and better quality sleep.
Normally taken as an herbal tea, passion flower is believed to promote better quality sleep and leave you feeling more refreshed in the morning.
We recommend browsing for things to help you sleep pills and sleeping pills online to get a better idea of the many natural sleeping tablets and remedies available. If you suffer from insomnia or sleeping difficulties, be sure to read our article on What is Insomnia to learn more about the condition and how you can find natural solutions to this sleeping disorder. You can also check out How to Get to Sleep for quick tips on falling asleep fast without the use of drugs or supplements.