When was the last time you had difficulty having a good night’s sleep? Or, should the question be the other way around: When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? Whatever the case may be, when a person is having a hard time falling or staying asleep, it could be a case of a sleep disorder known as insomnia. The most common cause of insomnia is stress. However, other conditions which can lead to insomnia are physical discomfort such as stuffy nose due to colds or the pain of a headache; emotional troubles like family issues or relationship problems; or even an uncomfortable sleeping environment like a room that’s too hot, cold, or noisy; and a bed that is too soft or too hard to sleep on. People with a sleep disorder have difficulty concentrating and are unable to work effectively. They can also experience emotional problems like depression and anxiety.

Insomnia may afflict anyone from time to time. But if insomnia lasts for a month or longer with no relief, it becomes chronic insomnia which, in turn, more adversely affects a person’s health, work, and lifestyle. Still, having a sleeping problem should not mean the end of the world. People with chronic insomnia can get help for their condition from a doctor, therapist, or counselor.

Several over-the-counter sleep aid pills are available in just about every local pharmacy. Many of these medications contain antihistamines which induce drowsiness by influencing the production of a chemical called histamine. Sleep aid pills are most effective when used only for an occasional sleepless night. However, the more often you take them, the less effective they become since the body adapts and develops a certain immunity to a certain dosage of the said drug.

In the early days, herbal potions and opiate laudanum were used to induce sleep until the introduction of barbiturates in the early 1900s. Benzodiazepines entered the scene in the 1960s and was succeeded by a safer class of anti-insomnia drugs known as nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics in the 1990s.

Through the years, however, sleep aid pills have become less risky than it used to be in the past where cases of dependence and lethal overdoses were rampant. Yet there is still risks for people who have certain medical conditions, including liver and kidney disease. That is why it is very important to consult with your doctor before taking any medications to avoid drug interaction with any medical condition.

Always remember these tips for a good night’s sleep:

Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule.

Make sure to exercise regularly but not before bedtime.

Refrain from taking caffeine and daytime naps.

Keep stress under control.

When your best attempts to get a good night’s sleep have failed, prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid pills may be an option. Be sure to use them safely and with advice from your physician. If your doctor suspects a sleep problem, he or she will look at your overall health and sleep habits.

Take sleep aid pills only when you’re going to bed. It can be dangerous to take it while you’re still trying to finish some tasks especially when it involves motor skills. Avoid mixing alcohol and sleep aid pills. Alcohol can increase the sedative effects of the pills even in small amount, causing dizziness, confusion, or fainting. Alcohol in itself can already cause insomnia.

Sleep disorders have an enormous impact on our individual and public health, safety, and performance. It is fortunate, though, that increasing awareness leads to a more effective treatment and productive waking moments.

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