If you toss and turn throughout the night, unable to find decent rest, you’re not alone. Recent surveys indicate that up to 40% of adults experience insomnia in a given year, making it the most common sleep complaint in the United States. Its most common symptoms are the inability to fall asleep at bedtime or stay asleep during the night, which often causes drowsiness and fatigue the following day. Insomnia can either be acute (lasting just a few days) or chronic (lasting a month or longer), and it may be connected to another health condition, aggravated by stress or anxiety, or triggered by a disruption in your daily routines (such as travel or a changing work schedule).
If you are having trouble sleeping, you should first take into consideration if there are any changes in your life—such as a new job, high levels of stress, or medications—that might be affecting your sleep. Visit your healthcare provider to talk about your symptoms and get a physical examination to rule out or seek treatment for any underlying health conditions that may be causing your sleeping problems.
There are many options you can take to manage the circumstances that cause your sleeplessness and return to a more regular sleep schedule. Be aware that there may not be a single solution; rather, taking a broad look at all the factors in your life that may affect sleep is the best approach to returning to a state of balance.
Doctors may prescribe sleeping pills as an option to deal with short-term insomnia. However, these medications often come with side effects, such as extreme drowsiness and impaired thinking that can affect your safety and ability to function normally. There may be more dangerous health consequences when using sleeping pills as well—a recent study found that people who took hypnotic sleeping medications had an increased incidence of cancer and a higher mortality rate than people who did not take them.
If you choose to use a sleeping pill, it is important that you discuss with your provider any questions or concerns you have about your prescription and carefully research the potential side effects and risk of dependency. Sleeping pills should never be considered a long-term solution to chronic insomnia.