Hypnotics belong to the group of psychotropic drugs. They work in the brain and ensure better sleep by adjusting certain control circuits. However, taking sleeping pills is often associated with side effects. That's why strong medications are only available by prescription. Herbal sleep aids such as valerian, however, are to get over the counter. In general, sleeping pills - whether synthetic or herbal - should only be taken if absolutely necessary.
Sleep aids help with sleep disorders
Sleep aids are substances that promote sleep and are therefore used to treat sleep disorders. Modern means only stimulate sleep and do not force it anymore. Sleep aids can either be produced synthetically or based on herbal ingredients. While the latter are available over the counter, synthetic prescriptions are usually needed, especially if they are stronger.
Sleeping pills are available in various dosage forms, including capsules, tablets and juice. Depending on whether there are problems during sleep or sleep, medications are used with different duration of action. Intravenously, sleep aids are usually only used before certain examinations such as colonoscopy or to induce anesthesia.
Large selection of sleeping pills
Synthetic sleep aids are not a strictly defined drug group, but can be divided into different groups. Below is an overview of the most important groups:
- Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly used sleeping pills. They have an anxiolytic, antispasmodic and sleep-inducing effect. Commonly used drugs are flurazepam, nitrazepam, temazepam and triazolam. They may only be used for a short time for the treatment of sleep disorders, since they can make them dependent on prolonged ingestion.
- Non-benzodiazepine agonists are also widely used to treat sleep disorders. Although they have a different structure than the benzodiazepines, they attack the same receptors. Typical representatives are zaleplon, zolpidem and zopiclone. Compared to benzodiazepines, they have the advantage that their dependency potential is lower.
- Barbiturates are nowadays only used as sleeping pills, if the symptoms can not be alleviated by other sleeping pills. This is because they have unpleasant side effects and can lead to death if overdosed.
- Antidepressants not only help with depression, but also sleep disorders. Especially amitriptyline, doxepin and trimipramine have a soothing and soothing effect and thus a sleep-inducing effect. Antidepressants are particularly used in sleep disorders caused by depression. They are also used when an anxiety-depressive mood develops as a result of sleep disorders.
- Neuroleptics are also not typical sleep aids, but are used to treat mental disorders. You can also help with sleep disturbances because of their calming and soothing effects. They are most commonly used in sleep disorders caused by psychosis.
- Antihistamines of the first generation not only relieve allergic symptoms but also have a sedative effect. Certain active ingredients such as doxylamine, meclozin and promethazine are therefore also used as sleeping pills.
In addition to the substances mentioned, there are a number of other sleeping pills. As substances of organic origin, the amino acid tryptophan, the hormone melatonin and the melatonin derivative Ramelteon are used. Other synthetic sleep aids that have been used more frequently in the past are either not used at all because of their side effects, or are used only in particularly severe cases.
Side effects of sleeping pills
Sleeping pills should only be taken because of possible side effects if absolutely necessary. Whether and how severe side effects occur is always dependent on the particular drug. In the case of remedies that are broken down only slowly due to their long duration of action, tiredness, fatigue, dizziness, and reduced responsiveness can occur on the next day (hang-over effect).
Some sleeping pills, such as benzodiazepines, are relatively fast dependent. They should therefore be taken only at short notice and under medical supervision. If longer-term treatment is needed, other sleep aids are often prescribed. These drugs usually have a lower risk of dependence, but often more side effects.
If you take sleeping pills for an extended period of time, you should not stop taking the pills overnight. Slowly reduce the dose slowly, step by step, to prevent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (rebound effect).
Sleepless by sleeping pills
Nowadays, sleep aids are increasingly used to treat sleep disorders. The drugs can sleep better in the short term, but in the long run many remedies destroy the structure of sleep. For example, certain medications such as benzodiazepines suppress the particularly restful deep sleep phases. As a result, the quality of sleep decreases significantly.
Due to the influence of the drugs on the structure of sleep, those affected can sometimes sleep even worse after discontinuing sleeping pills than before. Often they then need more medication, creating a vicious circle. Therefore, sleep aids should always be taken only as a last resort.
Nothing for liver patients and pregnant women
Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not take sleeping pills. Patients with liver disease should consult their doctor before taking to avoid further damage to the liver. For people who have ever had an addiction problem, only drugs with a low risk of dependence come into question.
Be sure to check for possible drug-drug interactions before taking a sleep aid. Interactions occur, inter alia, with alcohol and with drugs that also have a central depressant effect.
Herbal sleeping aids
Herbal sleeping aids have the advantage that they have no or only slight side effects. However, their sleep-promoting effect and their duration of action are also lower. Therefore, they are usually used only for the treatment of falling asleep, but not by staying asleep. For herbal sleeping pills you do not need a prescription, but you can receive them over the counter in pharmacies and drugstores.
Herbal sleep aids with valerian, St. John's wort, hops, lemon balm and passion flower are suitable for the treatment of insomnia. Most of the time, you need to take the remedy for a few days to a few weeks before it takes effect.
Home remedies help with insomnia
You do not always have to resort to sleeping pills for insomnia. Often the symptoms can also be treated well with home remedies:
- Make sure you have enough time to relax before going to bed. Listen to quiet music, read a book or do some relaxation exercises.
- Ventilate thoroughly before going to bed. In fresh, cool air it sleeps better than when it is hot and stuffy. It may also help to let a window tilt over night.
- Exercising is healthy, but not right before bed. That makes it lively and thus makes it difficult to fall asleep.
- Before going to bed, drink a hot milk with honey. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
- Take a hot bath before falling asleep. Do not bathe for more than 20 minutes at 35-38 degrees. As bath additives hops or melissa are well suited as they make you sleepy.