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Sleep Aids: Do They Work?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 8:58 AM

Feeling drowsy, having little productivity and becoming very moody are all signs that you may not be getting enough sleep. For adults, studies show that you’ll need between 8-9 quality hours of sleep a night to help avoid all of the above. Even though some feel they’re getting the right amount of hours a night, their quality of sleep may not reflect that. Common issues that affect many adults during the night are tossing and turning, consistently waking up and struggling to fall asleep at the beginning of the night.


Semil Mehta, MD, Sleep and Pulmonary Medicine at NorthShore, says that sleep aids can provide a little extra help when it comes to getting that good night’s sleep. Examples include sleeping pills, liquid medicine and more natural medicines. Medications and over-the-counter sleep aids may be needed for short periods of high stress.

If you are contemplating whether to take a sleep aid, the first thing you should do is consult with your physician. Sleep aids may not work if taken the wrong way and should never be taken with alcohol or other medication. Always take the dosage that is instructed to you. Taking them the wrong way will decrease the effectiveness and increase the risk for harmful side effects.

For the medicine to work most effectively, you need to adapt your lifestyle habits as well, including your sleep hygiene. Dr. Mehta recommends:

  • Regular stress management, with time set aside for self-reflection.
  • Winding down about 30 minutes prior to sleep.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Light from TVs and devices will increase the time it takes to fall asleep. Avoid watching TV or using computers, tablets and/or phones within an hour of bedtime.

It is important to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that is very treatable. These include daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, even gasping, choking and long breath holds at night. If you are unsure if you have these symptoms, ask your bed partner if you have any of these symptoms.

What ways have you tried to improve your quality of sleep?