Everyone needs sleep to function on a daily basis. According to medical statistics, between fifty and seventy million Americans have some attributes of insomnia or a sleeping disorder. How do these people function? Without REM sleep people are often reduced to being a zombie straight out of an episode of “The Walking Dead.” Like most disorders in today’s society, doctors are quick to treat these sleep disorders with a prescription medication, that “magic pill” which will solve everything. Often people put a lot of faith in medicine instead of addressing the potential underlying problems. Before venturing into the use of prescription sleeping medication, it is important to find out if it’s actually a sleeping disorder or if it is due to some underlying issue. Someone who has depression may sleep a lot or too little, and the same goes for anxiety disorders. For some it can simply be bad health or habits. If not properly diagnosed, ingesting these pills nightly won’t do much if anything at all; in fact, it may exacerbate the problem.
The most widely prescribed medications for sleeping disorders are Z-Drugs or Hypnotics, which include Ambien, Lunesta and Sonota. These medications effect GABA, which is a key neurotransmitter produced by the brain. They are CNS-Sedative Hypnotics and have the ability to curb anxiety as well. These medications essentially knock you out, and for someone who has a real sleep disorder they can be a lifesaver.
This is where potential abuse comes into play. GABA happens also to be the neurotransmitter that is affected when taking Benzodiazepines. The “Benzo” group of narcotics consists of Valium, Klonopin, Librium and Xanax. Many people have reported a sense of ease and relaxation when Z-Drugs are ingested, which function as anxiolytics (anti-panic agents). The Hypnotic class of drugs has also been associated with hallucinations and euphoria when the one ingesting them stays awake. This is known as an “Ambi Trip.” They also have been associated with hang over effects. Although not always physically addictive, when one abruptly stops there medication it should be noted sleep can be worse then before. This is due to a psychological addiction, the thought of not having that “crutch.”
There are safe alternatives to these medications that are sold over the counter at any pharmacy or super market. One that sticks out due to its popularity is melatonin. Melatonin is naturally occurring in the human body; when you have an abundance of serotonin the excess is converted to melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. Adding melatonin to your nightly routine for some can completely eliminate any sleep issues. In fact, no matter which sleep drug someone is taking melatonin plays a roll in the process.
To bring this full circle, before one ventures into a potentially addictive substance all the options should be weighed out. It is important you are taking the right medications for the right disorder. It is best to stay healthy, but for those who have serious sleeping disorder it can be extremely helpful.