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Using Sleep Aids and Medications for Better Sleep

For some who suffer from regular or occasiional loss of sleep, behavioral and environmental changes aren't effective at treating or curing their insomnia. Some insomnia sufferers simply don't want to try these types of treatments and cures.

Fortunately for them, several other effective sleep aids and medications are available.

If taken as directed, and only as needed, for short periods of time, most common prescription medications need not cause any problems with addiction. That's good news especially since sleep medications are the most common treatment for insomnia. However, the world of sleep aids, whether prescription and over-the-counter, can be confusing.

To get a prescription, you must, of course, be under the care of a physician. This is not a bad idea if you are experiencing chronic sleep deprivation. An effective treatment is going to begin with a professional diagnosis, including an identification of the underlying causes for the insomnia.

For example, if insomnia should turn out to be a symptom of a deeper problem, such as depression or anxiety, the patient may have a better experience when given a prescription designed to treat depression or anxiety rather than some "sleepin pill" intended to take care of the sleep disorder itself.

On the other hand, when insomnia is identified as purely a sleep issue, the most effective sleep aids for promoting sleep,  called "hypnotics" are probably going to be the doctor's choice. The two main goals of hypnotics are to induce sleep faster and then maintain it for a longer period, giving the patient a better quality sleep experience.

Hypnotics can be half-life hypnotics and full-life.

Half-life hypnotics are essentially designed to stay in the system only half the amount of the time as the full-life ones so that they won't interfere with daytime activities.

Hypnotics can vary by dosage, too. They're most effective when taken for short periods and when their use is gradually decreased over a period of time rather than all at once.

Among over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids, antihistamines are the most common form you will find.

Although antihistamines were originally intended to block the chemicals that the body releases during an allergic outbreak, they also have the ability to calm which makes them effective at encouraging sleep.

However, this is a point of considerable debate among some experts.

Some OTC sleep aids contain pain relievers which may cause difficulties with daily activities, interfering with decision making and coordination. Even if they don't cause these problems for you, OTC sleep aids should never be taken with alcohol. Even though these products are available without a prescription, it's still a good idea to consult with a medical professional before taking any type of sleep aid. 

Melatonin supplements are another sleep aid that some find handy in dealing with insomnia. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone the body produces as day turns into night. Melatonin helps your body prepare for sleep by adjusting body temperature and triggering other changes inside the body.

Melatonin production tends to decline in older people, and some people just seem to have a problem producing enough melatonin. For this reason, melatonin supplements are a popular OTC choice for people who suffer from chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation.

Care must be taken, however, when supplementing melatonin because there is always a risk of taking too much. Melatonin supplements are not regulated, and what you are getting may be in question. Also, melatonin supplement makers tend to approach the problem with a one-size-fits-all attitude, when, in fact, different people may need more or less of the dose offered.

Additionally, many report negative reactions to melatonin, including some who actually feel that their sleep is worse with the product than without. Some melatonin users report an increase in the number and intensity of disturbing dreams while taking this OTC sleep aid.

Some prefer herbal sleep remedies such as St. John's Wort, valerian root, chamomile and lemon balm. These seem to be fairly effective at reducing instances of insomnia. One product, Gentle Sleep Complex from Shaklee, contains a proprietary blend of some of these, and other natural ingredients to help induce restful sleep when a trip to the doctor is not indicated.

Shaklee's Gentle Sleep Complex has been thoroughly tested and has been a popular product with Shaklee customers and independent distributors alike for many years. It is also a Kosher sleep aid. Shaklee is committed to preserving the environment, operates its facilities in an earth-friendly manner, and uses no animal testing.