Here’s my take on how to best deal with sleep issues. I want to start by saying, please do not take sleep issues lightly. If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, it’s something that I think should be addressed immediately.
If you’re someone having sleep issues, before trying any medications it’s best to try and see if something that’s causing it can be addressed. A couple things to immediately assess are exercise, caffeine and alcohol intake in the evening. It’s important to try and keep an account of the things you do leading up to bedtime as pre-sleep habits are imperative to getting a good night’s rest. It is a common misconception that alcohol helps people go to sleep. While it is true alcohol helps people fall asleep quicker, it does not provide a good night’s rest and can actually cause you to wake up more often at night. So yes, if you’re having trouble staying awake at night, you might have to put down that glass of wine.
The following are my best tips for good pre-sleep habits:
So you’ve perfected your pre-sleep habits but still no luck? It might be time for a trip to the pharmacy.
What I usually recommend for sleep is Benadryl. I usually recommend this for people who can pin point why they can’t sleep, i.e, family hardship, jet lag, or a change in sleep environment. The downfalls of Benadryl are a very groggy feeling the next morning and the possible interactions with some medications or health issues. Because of this, it is very important to talk with your health care provider before starting. It’s also important to note the generic of Benadryl is called diphenhydramine, which is usually listed as an allergy medication. But don’t be fooled! Almost all of your over-the-counter sleep aids contain diphenhydramine as the active ingredient, the ingredient causing you to go to sleep. They just slap the title “sleep aid” on there and charge you more. You’re welcome.
For example, I checked some prices at Walmart in case you didn’t believe me:
ZzzQuil = $13.47 for a box of 48
Diphenhydramine = $4 for a box of 100
The other recommendation I give my patients is Melatonin. It’s a natural product available over-the-counter at the pharmacy. It’s best for people who can’t really pinpoint or fix what’s causing their insomnia. Melatonin helps people get back into a normal sleep routine. It’s important to note that this usually takes time to work. Up to a few days or even weeks to get the full effect. It’s a great option for long term use since it doesn’t have many interactions with other medications and is generally safe to use in most people.
If you have tried everything I’ve covered here, and still not getting a full night’s rest, you may need to consider an appointment with your primary care provider for further evaluation. Again, sleep is super important and it should be addressed as soon as possible if you’re having sleep issues.
I really hope this was helpful. As always, do not start or change the way you use any medications without first talking with your pharmacist or primary care provider.
Please reach out to me if you have any other questions!
Dr. Richard is the Founder of MedVize, a personal medication management company and is the host of Rx Radio, a podcast dedicated the pharmacy profession. He is a pharmacist who is committed to helping individuals better manage their health and medications. He is passionate about advancing the profession of pharmacy with a focus on machine learning and blockchain technologies. His mission is to provide people with understandable knowledge to best manage their health while ensuring their medications are convenient, affordable, safe, and effective. Dr. Richard holds a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Florida, and fun fact, although living in sunny Miami, Florida, he loves snowboarding.