What’s Right for You? – Medications, Sleeping Pills or Sleep Aids?

Generally, medications and sleeping pills are effective for short-term situations, whereas, sleep aids can be depended on for relatively longer periods. Medications are sometimes used as a treatment at the beginning stage of behavioral treatment in insomnia, especially in cases of severe sleep deprivation. Pills and medications have potential side effects, unlike sleep aids, which don’t really have potential dangers attached to them.

Natural Sleep Aids, Medications and Sleeping Pills

Sleeping Pills

People often face one problem in the middle of the night. They stare at the bedroom ceiling, thinking about the bills, work, the kids, plans, or other hardships. They are unable to fall asleep. They keep looking at the clock again and again, but time keeps flying by with no sleep around the corner.

At such instances, it is very tempting to pop in a sleeping pill, but there are important things to know before doing that. Sleep medications differ in effectiveness and safety, and are very rarely meant for short-term uses. Some sleep disorders on the other hand cannot be treated with sleep medications, such as insomnia. Instead of popping in sleeping pills, making simple changes to lifestyles is usually far more effective to put an end to sleepless nights.

The Trouble with Medications, Sleeping Pills and OTC Sleep Aids

The thought of instantly solving sleep problems is quite appealing. Unfortunately, sleep medications are always the cure for every sleep problem (like insomnia). There have been concerns about the use of both prescription sleep medications and OTC (over-the-counter). These include:

  • The side effects could be severe, such as, prolonged drowsiness, dry mouth, forgetfulness and confusion.
  • To be able to tolerate the drugs, people sometimes need to take sleep aids. This in turn leads to more side effects.
  • People tend to become very dependent on the medications. This makes it difficult for people to go to sleep, or worse, they can’t go to sleep without it at all.
  • If people stop the medications abruptly, they suffer of withdrawal symptoms such as, shaking, nausea and sweating.
  • The use of other medications (such as painkillers or sedatives) with sleep medications causes reactions, which can be fatal.
  • Sometimes, in the case of people suffering of insomnia, the condition can worsen if they need to stop the medication.
  • Apart from sleep disorders, there may be other disorders, which when treated could mask another underlying problem.

Side Effects

All medications have some kind of side effects, which vary with different drugs and dosages. People should always consult their healthcare professionals about any concerns pertaining sleeping pills and sleep aids. Some common side effects of sleep medications include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Head aches
  • Daytime excessive sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble concentrating on things/ sluggishness

A few Risks of Sleeping Pills

  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Memory lapses
  • Facial swelling
  • Hallucinations
  • Complex sleep problems (such as sleepwalking, sleep driving, sleep eating, etc.)

Natural and Herbal Sleep Aids

Herbal Sleep Aids

People often prefer the use of natural or herbal remedies to treat sleep related problems. For example, people suffering of insomnia choose the use of herbal treatments, though their effectiveness is not always accountable. Some natural remedies, such as the use of chamomile tea and lemon balm are harmless and have a very soothing effect. However, some remedies can have serious and dangerous side effects that can react with prescribed medications. It is always best to check with a healthcare professional before trying herbal remedies. The following are some sleep aids:


  • Chamomile
  • Kava kava
  • Lemon balm
  • Valerian root
  • Lavender
  • Passionflower (Passiflora Incarnata)
  • Hops (Humulus Lupulus)
  • St. Johns’ Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)


Tryptophan, L-tryptophan
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)

Alternatives to Sleep Medications and Pills

As shown by researches, changing the environment or bedtime behavior is an effective way to combat insomnia. Even upon the use of medications, experts still recommend lifestyle and environmental changes. This always has a good impact on sleep, instead of using pills, sleep aids or medications. Some alternative measures that can be taken include:

  • Having 40 minute walks during the day everyday, to expose the skin to sunlight
  • Eating healthy
  • Reducing the intake of amines and salicylates in food
  • Regular exercising
  • Stopping the use of alcohol, drugs and stimulants
  • Avoiding sugary foods
  • Following sleep-wake routines
  • Making sure to have at least 1 hour of relaxation time during the day
  • Staying hydrated (this is one of the most important thing to take care of to remain healthy)
  • Sleeping in a cool environment

Behavioral and environmental changes always show positive results, without the risk of dependence and side effects. They are always a better option rather than the use of sleep aids, sleeping pills or other sleep medications.