Americans love over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. In 2015 we spent $427 million on products like ZzzQuil, Unisom, and Sominex.
These drugs are advertised “for relief of occasional sleeplessness.” Yet many Americans—particularly older adults—use OTC sleep aids several nights a week and may want to consider scaling back because of the side effects.
Belsomra, Merck’s new sleeping pill, is now the hottest topic on this blog. Insomnia sufferers who write in with comments are wondering about dosage, effectiveness, side effects, and how it compares with other sleeping pills.
Reviews of Belsomra, or suvorexant, have been lukewarm so far. Since I haven’t tried it myself, I can’t weigh in based on personal experience. But my search for information turned up more than I shared in my blog last August. Here’s a bit of context and more details.
Sour date seed has been used as a sleep aid in China and other Asian countries for over 2,000 years. The seed of a small tree called Ziziphus jujuba Mill var. spinosa, sour date is used alone or in combination with other herbal medicines to relieve insomnia and anxiety.
People sometimes offer advice when they hear about my insomnia. Their suggestions are not always helpful.
In fact, I used to feel impatient with–and occasionally hurt by—comments that to my ears sounded judgmental or attitudes toward insomnia that I felt were just plain wrong. The comments were well meaning, but that didn’t make them easier to tolerate. Here are a few that put me off and what I think about them now.
Many of us assume that over-the-counter drugs are safer than prescription drugs.
Yet the long-term effects of any drug can remain unknown for decades, and now researchers have found a correlation between long-term and/or high-dose use of OTC sleep aids and dementia.
Some people I know are perfectly comfortable taking sleeping pills and would be happy to use them for the rest of their lives. Others say they’re harmful, having a raft of side effects and degrading the quality of sleep we get.
The pros and cons of sleeping pills are too numerous to explore in a blog (I do lay them out in The Savvy Insomniac, my book). But here’s a summary of the numbers of people using sleep meds in the US, which meds we’re using, and who’s using them.