What you need to know about sleeping pills

Have a question about your medications? KUTV and Intermountain Healthcare's Ask the Expert{ }will be answering your phone calls on September 11 from noon to 5:30 p.m. at 1-877-908-0680. You can also submit questions via Facebook and Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert

Everyone needs and wants a good night’s sleep, but sometimes, we need a little help. Sleeping pills can be a temporary aid when stress, travel, or other disruptions keep you awake.

Prescription sleeping pills may help you fall asleep easier or stay asleep longer (or both). The risks and benefits of various prescription sleeping pills can differ. To find the right prescription medication for you, a doctor will generally do the following:

  • Ask questions to get a clear picture of your sleep patterns.
  • Order tests to rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing difficulty sleeping.
  • Discuss options for taking prescription sleeping medication, including how often and when to take it, and in what form, such as pills, oral spray, or dissolving tablets.
  • Prescribe a sleeping pill for a limited period to determine the benefits and side effects for you.
  • Prescribe a different prescription sleeping pill if the first medication you take doesn't work after the full trial.

Here's some advice on how to use prescription sleep pills safely:

  • Get a medical evaluation.
  • Read the medication guide.
  • Never take a sleeping pill until you're going to bed.
  • Take your sleeping pill when you can get a full night's sleep.
  • Watch for side effects.
  • Avoid alcohol—you should never mix alcohol and sleeping pills.
  • Take sleeping pills strictly as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Quit carefully.

Some other over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids combine antihistamines with the pain reliever Acetaminophen (found in brand names like Tylenol PM and Aspirin-Free Anacin PM). Others, such as NyQuil, combine antihistamines with alcohol. In any case, always be cautious when mixing medications. It is safest to always check with your doctor or pharmacist.

The problem with antihistamines is that their sedating properties often last well into the next day, leading to a next-day hangover effect. When used long-term, they can also cause forgetfulness and headaches. Because of these issues, sleep experts advise against their regular use.

If you have further questions on sleeping aids or medications in general, join Intermountain Healthcare experts on Tuesday, September 11 as they discuss medications and prescriptions on the KUTV and Intermountain Healthcare’s Ask the Expert. Tips and suggestions will be offered throughout the day on Channel 2, with pharmacists and other medical experts providing interviews during news and other broadcasts.

If you have questions, our panel of experts will be answering your phone calls from noon to 5:30 p.m. at 1-877-908-0680. You can also submit questions via Facebook and Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.

For more information visit intermountainhealthcare.org/asktheexpert.