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Why prescription sleep aids are not a long term solution

Thrive Carolinas / Dr NP  / Why prescription sleep aids are not a long term solution

Why prescription sleep aids are not a long term solution

According to the CDC, one in three Americans has trouble getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night. While getting enough sleep is integral to your health, one of the most common solutions might be doing more harm than good.

Prescription sleep medicine is commonly prescribed to patients who have trouble sleeping, but it’s not helpful in the long run.

The Harm of Long-Term Use

Prescription sleep medicine might be okay to use short-term, but side effects become more dangerous the longer it’s used. Depending on the prescription, side effects can range from changes in appetite, daytime drowsiness, and heartburn to memory problems, stomach pain, and uncontrollable shaking in the body.

Some prescription sleep medicines can be addictive along with harmful side effects if used for an extended period. Dependency on prescription medication should be avoided whenever possible, especially when there are natural ways to develop better sleeping habits.

Studies have shown sleeping pills do not improve sleep much more than the placebo. They do not deliver the same effects as good sleep and restrict deeper sleep.

They can be habit-forming and associated with significant adverse effects such as

  • 5x higher risk of memory and concentration problems
  • 4x increased risk of daytime fatigue
  • 2x increased risk of falls and fractures
  • 2x increased risk of motor vehicle accidents 


Antihistamines like Benadryl can affect histamine receptor sites and control wakefulness. Have been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s risk with long term use,

Withdrawl and insomnia are prevalent with the discontinuation of Antihistamines. Dependency on these can occur after 2 weeks of use. Involving withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, excessive sweating, depression, muscle tension, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes seizures.

Lifestyle Solutions

Just like prescription sleep aids, sleep issues shouldn’t be something you deal with long-term. Prescription sleep aids are often masking lifestyle issues that might be interfering with your quality of sleep. Three of the most common lifestyle culprits for bad sleep habits are eating unhealthy foods right before bed, having caffeine too late in the day, and a lack of exercise. 

Three easy guidelines can help mitigate these issues:

  • Avoid fried or greasy foods before bedtime
  • Don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon or evening
  • Move your body for at least ten minutes a day

Lifestyle decisions do impact sleep, so make choices that promote good sleep habits.

A More Natural Solution to Sleep Issues

If diet and exercise changes aren’t improving your sleep habits, try non-prescription sleep aids, also known as natural sleep aids. They are a less risky alternative for a good night’s sleep because they have fewer side effects. Natural sleep aids also have a lower risk of health complications than their prescription counterparts.

Not only do they have fewer side effects, but these natural sleep aids can also improve other health issues, such as digestive issues or chronic pain.

One of the most popular natural sleep aids is melatonin. Melatonin can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep. Another popular sleep aid is magnesium, a mineral that relaxes the body and enables you to stay asleep throughout the night.

Foods that boost melatonin tart cherries, walnuts, ginger root, asparagus, and pineapples. Melatonin is a sleep initiator and regulator. It can help with sleep-wake cycles and circadian rhythms.

Melatonin is a hormone, so it should consider a band-aid and not a solution.

Dosing is important. It should not be higher than 3 mg, and slow-release is optimal, so it does not disrupt your natural production. Best taken at least 90 minutes before bedtime. Pill form and slow-release formulation best such as Pure Encapsulations SR Melatonin.

Even if you’re not experiencing any adverse side effects, it’s wise to replace a prescription sleep aid with a natural sleep aid and make healthy changes to your diet and exercise routine. Using prescription sleep aids shouldn’t be long-term when there are better, more natural solutions available.

Thrive Carolinas

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