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Pros and Cons of Medications for Insomnia

More Americans than ever before are struggling to fall asleep: Annually, over 25% of Americans report dealing with a bout of insomnia, with about 6% reporting chronic insomnia. While insomnia is challenging, with the right care, you can get back to enjoying restful nights. 

Here at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates in the greater Boston area, we offer comprehensive treatment plans for insomnia that include therapy options as well as medications if needed. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of medication for insomnia and when they should be used.

Pro: Medication can be useful as a last resort

Sleeping pills are typically only used for particularly bad spells of insomnia. Insomnia can be caused by stress, travel, or other disruptions that keep you awake. Longer term insomnia is often caused by your daily lifestyle and behavior.

Behavioral therapy is usually the best treatment to change these behaviors and get better sleep. If you have been regularly having issues falling or staying asleep, our team can help investigate your insomnia. If other treatments have proven ineffective, Dr. Mohammad Munir may prescribe sleeping pills as a quick and easy way to ensure you get enough sleep.

Pro: You can target your sleep problem

The two main types of chronic insomnia are acute sleep onset insomnia (struggling to fall asleep) and sleep-maintenance insomnia (struggling to stay asleep during the night). Some sleeping pills work best for either one type or the other. 

Unfortunately, this means that while some sleeping pills may help you get to sleep, you might still wake up in the middle of the night, for example. We can help ensure that the sleeping pills you use work for the type of insomnia you are suffering from.

Cons: You may develop a tolerance

Prescription insomnia drugs, such as z-drugs (which include medications like Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta) and benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, and Ativan) are not approved for long-term use or to treat chronic insomnia because they carry a risk of addiction. 

If you take your sleeping pills longer than prescribed in order to treat chronic insomnia, you may find your tolerance increasing, meaning you require a higher dosage for the same effect. Additionally, if used incorrectly, you might suffer from “rebound insomnia,” which can be worse than what you experienced before you started taking the drug. 

Cons: There may be side effects

Most medications for insomnia can cause irritating and even dangerous side effects. For example, antihistamines, which are usually found in over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medication, can often cause dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, constipation, and confusion upon waking.

Prescription drugs, such as z-drugs, can also cause similar side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, memory problems, daytime drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. However, they are also associated with serious side effects called complex sleep behaviors, where you attempt to go about normal activities but are not fully awake, such as sleepwalking and sleep-driving.

Here at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates, our team focuses on treating your insomnia at its source. While medication can be a useful last resort for insomnia, we usually start by prescribing treatment plans such as cognitive behavioral therapy, progressive muscle relaxation, stimulus control therapy, light therapy, and breathing exercises. If you still require medication after trying these treatment options, we offer personalized medication management services to reduce your risk of side effects or drug interactions. 

It’s time to get the rest you deserve. Get treatment for your insomnia by contacting Dr. Mohammad Munir and our team at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates by calling one of our offices or making an appointment request online.

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