Sleeping pill alternatives every insomniac should know

October 9, 2015

Ever wonder why docs are so quick to whip out the prescription pad when you complain about insomnia? Because it's easy, quick and it works — temporarily. Here are some smart alternatives to consider before you rely on prescription sleeping pills.

Sleeping pill alternatives every insomniac should know

Get proven results with cognitive behaviour therapy

The most effective therapy for insomnia is cognitive behaviour therapy, or CBT. 

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy teaches you to realistically evaluate your insomnia and find ways to address it. For instance, you might learn that missing a night's sleep isn't so terrible. That, in turn, helps you feel less anxious about not falling asleep so you can, well, fall asleep!
  • A recent study shows that ten weeks after receiving CBT, fully 80 percent of those who'd been habitually using sleeping pills were drug-free. Seventy percent remained drug-free one year later.
  • Two large studies, one in Scotland and one in the United States, indicate that people treated with sleeping pills revert to their dysfunctional sleep patterns within one to two years after treatment.
  • For a CBT program, contact the psychological association in your province or ask your physician for a referral to a behaviour therapist with this type of training.

What drug companies don’t want you to know about sleep aids

The most frequently prescribed medications for chronic insomnia have never been tested or approved for that purpose.

  • In fact, while an antidepressant that contains trazodone  is one of the most prescribed drugs for insomnia, just one quality study has been published on its use for insomnia.
  • That study found that after a week, medication containing trazodone worked no better than a placebo.
  • All over-the-counter sleeping aids contain the same active ingredient — diphenhydramine or some other antihistamine.
  • So for the occasional sleepless night, skip the expensive store brands and pick up any generic antihistamine. Just make sure it doesn't say "non-drowsy" on the label.

Keep this guide in mind and control your insomnia with healthy alternatives that work.

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