Up to 50 percent of adults in the U.S. experience insomnia. Many people go through acute insomnia or sleeplessness associated with life events such as severe illness, grief, or other stressors. Research also indicates that 15 percent of adults struggle with chronic insomnia, resulting from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or other conditions that interfere with sleep. Experts recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep in 24 hours, but many people find it impossible to get the sleep they need.
How Sleeplessness Impacts Health
Sleeplessness can impact health in some significant ways. Failing to get enough sleep can leave people feeling tired and irritable. Conditions linked to inadequate sleep include diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation can affect mental and physical performance. Individuals who work in child care, patient care, and the transportation industry need adequate sleep to be alert and attentive. When an employee working in these jobs struggles with chronic sleepiness, accidents and mistakes can happen, endangering lives.
Sleeplessness can also impair immunity making it hard for the body to fight infections and pain. Research suggests that insufficient sleep may contribute to weight gain. One theory is that being tired from a lack of sleep reduces the motivation to participate in physical activity that burns calories. Also, some experts suggest that getting very little sleep can affect ghrelin and leptin, hormones that regulate hunger, causing individuals to want to eat more high-calorie foods.
Melatonin and Sleep
The body produces melatonin naturally, and levels rise before bedtime; however, using mobile phones and tablet screens emit blue light that can lessen melatonin’s effects. Some people find that melatonin supplements help them sleep, but it is best to check with a health care provider or pharmacist before taking supplements.
If lifestyle changes didn’t work, you may’ve asked a health care provider for sleep medication. Sleep medications help millions of individuals get through temporary periods of insomnia. Sleeping pills are hypnotic drugs and have a sedative effect. Typically meant as a short-term solution, they can have adverse effects.
Many individuals use sleep medications longer than intended and develop a tolerance, so that over time they need more of the medication to achieve the same effects. More is not better when it comes to sleeping pills, however. Taking larger doses can lead to other issues like “parasomnia.” Parasomnia refers to behaviors done in one’s sleep such as bedwetting, driving, eating, talking, and sleepwalking. Higher doses of sleep medication has increased the risk for these behaviors, some of which can be dangerous.
5 Tips to Quit Using Sleeping Pills
Health care providers often recommend that individuals “wean” themselves from sleeping pills. Quitting cold turkey is not recommended as it can lead to rebound insomnia where the individual begins experiencing sleeplessness again. The problem with rebound insomnia is it can be worse than what a person experienced before beginning sleeping pills and can lead to several days of sleeplessness. According to sleep experts, tapering off sleeping pills is a way to avoid rebound insomnia.
Individuals who find they need some help to sleep after quitting sleeping pills can make some changes to bedtime routines that can help them sleep better. For example, they can avoid things like bedtime meals and beverages, exercising, watching television, using electronics such as laptops and tablets, and certain medications—all of which can interfere with sleep. Here are five more tips that can help individuals begin to sleep without medication help.
- Decrease Sleep Medication Dosage or Frequency
Some doctors suggest taking smaller doses over time to taper off the meds. To begin, some doctors may recommend not taking the pills one night a week (and from there, moving to two nights a week, then three nights a week, and so on). Individuals who want to get off their sleep medication should consult their doctor about the best way to approach quitting.
- Refrain from Eating and Drinking Near Bedtime
Eating meals and snacks just before bedtime may cause the body to think there is plenty of time left in the day. Eating late at night can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm (or internal clock). Late-night eating can also cause indigestion, leading to insomnia and restless sleep. Refraining from eating about three hours before bedtime may help individuals avoid sleep problems.
Drinks containing caffeine make it difficult to fall asleep. Alcohol may induce sleep, but alcohol is also a sleep disrupter, causing restlessness later in the sleep cycle. Drinking water just before bedtime can also cause sleep interruptions, because it can lead to the urge to urinate. It’s best to stop drinking liquids about two hours before going to bed.
- Exercise Earlier
Exercising right before going to bed can raise the body temperature and endorphin levels, making it harder to sleep. Typically, body temperature decreases at night in preparation for rest, so vigorous exercise right before bed can cause some individuals to have difficulty falling asleep. Stopping activity at least 90 minutes before going to bed may contribute to better sleep.
- Turn Off the Television and Electronics
Shutting off the television or electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed may help you sleep better. Watching violent or disturbing scenes on T.V. may prevent you from sleeping and lead to disturbing dreams. The blue light emitted by electronic screens, including cell phones, can impact the body’s ability to produce the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Understand That Some Medications Interfere with Sleep
Some medications can lead to sleep disturbances. Diuretics in some blood pressure medications can cause wakening, because they promote urination to remove excess fluid from the body. If medications disturb sleep, a health care provider may recommend options that will not impact rest or suggest taking the meds earlier.
Sleeping Pill Detox
Prescription sleep meds or over-the-counter sleep aids like Unisom can be habit-forming, and it can be challenging to stop using them. Whether because of fears of addiction or concerns about the health problems associated with dependency, the question of how to flush sleeping pills out of your system is one that many people have voiced.
If you’re asking this question, here are some things to know about detox from sleeping pills:
- Yes, you can develop tolerance and/or an addiction. Like other drugs that alter the brain’s chemistry, sleeping pills can put users in a vicious cycle where they may use more sleep medication without the desired results.
- Withdrawal symptoms can be difficult and can make it hard to quit. Those who try to quit sleep medication may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, and an inability to sleep. They may also be confused, depressed, and/or experience cravings and seizures. Unisom withdrawal can also be challenging. Although Unisom is an over-the-counter sleep aid, Unisom can cause similar problems.
Sleeping pill detox involves getting rid of the sleep medication and by-products that have built up in one’s system over time. Oversight by medical professionals at a detox center can help to ensure that this process is safe and successful.
Getting Off Sleeping Pills
If you or someone you care about needs help getting off sleeping pills, professional and compassionate detox help is available. It is possible to overcome Unisom addiction and reliance on other sleeping pills.