Should I Take a Sleep Aid?

Many people find sleep aids helpful for insomnia. Your doctor may recommend that you take a sleep aid to help you fall asleep, sleep longer during the night, wake up less frequently, or improve the quality of your sleep. There are a few things to consider when you're trying to decide if a sleep aid is the right approach for you:

  • Sleep aids may be a good idea if you've tried behavioral changes and other non-medical treatments, but insomnia continues to interfere with daily activities, productivity, or personal relationships.
  • If your insomnia is short-term, sleep aids may help. For example, if you're having difficulty sleeping as the result of a temporary change to your work schedule, in the case of jet lag, or in advance of a special event or other cause of short-term anxiety and sleep loss.
  • If you and your doctor have determined the cause of insomnia, a particular sleep aid may be indicated for this cause.
  • Discuss with your doctor if your sleep difficulties are having psychological or health consequences.
  • Sleep aids can't replace healthy sleep habits; good sleep practices are the foundation of proper treatment for insomnia. Especially if your insomnia is long-standing, it's important to use non-medical approaches, such as proper sleep hygiene, and cognitive behavioral treatments for insomnia. For some, a combination of medical and behavioral treatments may be the best way to manage insomnia symptoms, and for others a sleep aid is used at the beginning of treatment and behavioral techniques take over as a long-term approach.

Some sleep aids are available by prescription only. This is because it's important to work with a doctor to decide on the best type, dose, and plan for taking a sleep aid. Over-the-counter sleep aids work for some people, but it's not a good idea to use these regularly for a long period of time. The best practice is to use a sleep aid with the input of your doctor.