Think twice before taking a sleeping pill

By Drum Digital
20 April 2014

Is your teenager’s behaviour keeping you awake? You may feel desperately tired, but think twice before taking a sleeping pill.

Do you struggle to sleep at night? About 16 million prescriptions for sleeping pills are written every year – but wait, read this before turning to sleeping pills. Experts warn they can be highly addictive and dangerous to your heart and respiration – and can lead to psychosis.

Do you have a problem?

Experts say if you have two or more of the following symptoms, you may need advice or help:

  • It’s difficult to manage without your sleeping pill.
  • You suffer withdrawal symptoms if you reduce your dose or stop taking the pills.
  • You’re prepared to break the law or behave unethically to obtain the pills.
  • You’re no longer interested in your hobbies.
  • You no longer meet personal or social responsibilities.
  • You still deny you have a problem.

What is the alternative?

  • Herbs: Various herbs such as cammomile, valerian, kava-kava, lemon balm and lavender are recommended for insomnia.
  • Melatonin: This natural hormone occurs in the body but can also be obtained in pill form without a prescription.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): This is a simple treatment that can improve your sleep by changing your behavioural patterns, worries and thoughts before bedtime. It also concentrates on relaxation skills and sleep patterns.

Also try these tips:

1. Get a sleep routine:Try to get to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time.

2. Avoid afternoon naps:Don’t take naps as they upset your normal sleep pattern and ensure you can’t get to sleep at night. New moms with babies needing night feeds are an exception to this rule.

3. Create a good atmosphere:Convert your bedroom into a still, peaceful place where you can rest. Don’t watch TV in your room or work on your computer there. Use your bedroom only for sleeping and reading.

4. Relax:Establish routines that allow you to relax before you go to sleep. Develop techniques that relax you and practise them before going to bed. These can include yoga, deep breathing or meditation.

5. Get your thoughts right:Avoid bad news if you can before bedtime. So don’t read the newspaper or watch violent programmes before bed as they make it more difficult to fall asleep.

6. Write a to-do list:Think of all the things that are bothering you well before going to bed. Write the next day’s to-do list or list anything you’re concerned about. This will help you forget about them.

7. Exercise regularly:Exercise keeps your mind and body healthy, but don’t do strenuous exercise shortly before bedtime.

8. Forget about time:Don’t lie in bed and watch the clock; you’ll just count off the hours and feel anxious. Rather get up and do something that will relax you and make you tired.

9. Eat and drink correctly:Add more milk, eggs, chicken and fish to your diet. These are sources of the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming effect and will enable you to sleep. At night drink herbal tea or hot drinks to promote relaxation, rather than coffee or stimulating drinks.

10.  Avoid stimulants:Alcohol and cigarettes keep you awake.

Addiction: What to do

If you suspect you have an addiction, get help. You don’t have to handle it alone. Call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) on 011-262-6396 or 0800-20-50-26. The organisation has trained counsellors available 24 hours a day to help you.

 -Janine Nel

Extra sources: health24.com, wedorecover.com, sadag.org 

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