Getting a good night’s sleep is a crucial factor in our general wellbeing. It keeps us from getting tired during the day, plays an important role in our mental health, and even helps us fight off disease. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can make a noticeable difference in several aspects of our lives.

Insomniacs often turn to sleeping pills in an effort to get the sleep they need. But there is much debate as to whether sleeping pills are the best answer. Here are the pros and cons of taking sleeping pills.

Pros

* Today’s sleeping pills are less habit-forming than those prescribed in years past. There is also a much lower risk of lethal overdose with them. These are two of the factors that made people leery of taking sleeping pills for decades.

* There are several types of sleeping pills to choose from to meet each patient’s specific needs. There are pills that help you fall asleep, pills that help you stay asleep through the night, and pills that do both. This means there’s a better chance of finding something that will work for you without causing unwanted side effects.

* The newer sleeping pills are less likely to cause drowsiness during the day. This has been a common complaint of those taking sleeping pills in the past.

Cons

* Although today’s sleeping pills are less risky than their predecessors, they still carry some serious risks. These vary depending on which specific drug you’re taking, but may include interactions with alcohol and other drugs, blurry vision, and dizziness.

* Sleeping pills have been associated with behaviors such as falling asleep while driving. Obviously, this is extremely dangerous.

* Sleeping pills usually cause you to sleep very deeply. Those taking them may be unable to wake up in case of a house fire or other emergency.

* Taking sleeping pills is rarely effective in the long term. While they might help with occasional bouts of sleeplessness, they do not treat the underlying causes of chronic insomnia. So while they might not be habit-forming by nature, you may have to keep taking them in order to see continued improvement.

Before You Try Sleeping Pills

There are things you can do to get a better night’s sleep without taking sleeping pills. Trying these things first may eliminate the need for medication:

* Herbs – There are several herbs that can help us sleep, and they are gentler and less likely to cause side effects than sleeping pills. These include valerian, chamomile, hops and passionflower.

* Exercise – Working out early in the day can help us get a good night’s sleep. Just be sure not to exercise shortly before bedtime, because that can make it more difficult to get to sleep.

* Block out the light – Making sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible at night can be more helpful than many people realize. Our bodies respond to darkness by getting ready for sleep, making it much easier for us to get to sleep at night.

* Avoid caffeine and other stimulants – Caffeine can affect our bodies for many hours after we consume it, so it’s best to avoid it. If you can’t bring yourself to quit caffeine altogether, at least stay away from it after lunch.

Sleeping pills can help us sleep better, but they should be used as a last resort. There are alternatives, and many of them don’t cost a dime. There’s no harm in trying them first, and if they work for you, they can save you money and risk.

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