In the treatment of sleep disorders, there are a few different types of medications commonly prescribed to patients. Some medications address disruptive physical ailments that make it difficult for patients to sleep while others aid in helping the patient to fall asleep or sleep through the night.
Because there can be a number of causes for sleep disruption, all treatment programs should begin with a thorough evaluation to determine the best course of care for each patient.
Unfortunately, many patients attempt to treat their sleep disorder on their own, using alcohol, leftover prescription medications, or other drugs to help them fall asleep at night. Not only is this largely ineffective, but it can often be the first step toward an addiction that will be far more disruptive than the original sleep issue – and more life threatening.
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According to a report in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the following is true about sleep disorders:
If medication is indicated, it’s not uncommon for a physician to begin by asking a patient to try some over the counter remedies – especially sedative antihistamines – or to prescribe a sedating antidepressant. If these measures are ineffective, other medication efforts may be tried.
Because sleep disorders can be caused by medications taken for other issues or by the physical symptoms related to medical ailments, it may be most effective to address those issues head on. Lowering a medication dose or changing the medication schedule may be a first step if the drug is believed to be disruptive to sleep. If a physical ailment exists, addressing that issue directly is more effective than medicating the side effect of sleep disruption.
A class of pills called benzodiazepines are sedating in effect and are sometimes used to help patients address a sleep disorder. Zolpidem and Zaleplon are two examples of medications in this category that have been proven to be effective in sleep disorder treatment with minimal side effects.
Additionally, hypnotic medications may be useful for some patients. These can include popular choices like:
These medications are only recommended for short-term use, however, because they can be highly psychologically addictive and may make sleep disruption more difficult to deal with after their use if the patient doesn’t learn how to manage the issue without pharmacological assistance as a part of treatment.
It is not uncommon for patients to abuse their prescription for sleep medications. Even if therapy and holistic measures are incorporated into treatment, they can be slow acting and patients often feel desperate for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, these medications can cause erratic behaviors in some patients (e.g., driving, eating, shopping, and other behaviors while under the influence), and many take higher and higher doses as they develop a tolerance for the medication even if the sleep they get by using the drugs is not as restful as it should be.
When a sleep disorder and a substance abuse issue are both in evidence, patients are encouraged to enroll in a treatment program that can help them to overcome both issues at the same time. Working to address the sleep disorder can make recovering from substance abuse easier and vice versa. Learn more about the comprehensive care that could change your loved one’s life when you contact us today.