Anxiety, Medication, and Sleep — What’s Keeping You Up?
by Nick Hasche
For those of us who struggle with anxiety, many things can keep us up at night. Worry, fear, anxiousness, and a general feeling of dread can contribute too many sleepless nights and hours of tossing and turning. In some cases, we might turn to medication to assist with our anxiety or just to get a full night’s sleep.
With such a big market of all sorts of anti-anxiety medication out there, it’s easy to believe there is a chemical based solution to your problems. Those solutions, however, can often cause more problems in the long run.
It might be tempting turning to alcohol to assist with sleep, but according to Timothy Roehrs and Thomas Roth, two researchers of sleep, alcohol might initially improve the first half of sleep, but it disrupts the second half. In other words: yes, you get sleep, but you don’t get restful sleep.
With medication, it’s not much better. While alcohol can readily be seen as a poor companion to sleep, pills are often seen as a safe way to get a healthy rest, but this ignores the fact that most medications produce tolerance in our bodies.
In simple terms, the more our bodies are exposed to a drug, the more resistant we become to that drug. When dealing with medications, eventually we will grow resistant to them, and their effects will either be diminished, or we will have to increase the dosage we take. Since higher dosages of most medications have even more unfortunate effects on the human body, we are forced to find a new alternative or continue using a product that no longer works.
And that’s not the worst of it. Anxiety medications are loaded with multiple side effects that can impede your ability to function during the day acquiring a prescription might help you get sleep tonight, but it may put you in a mental fog tomorrow and that is far from ideal. You shouldn’t have to pay for tonight’s sleep with tomorrow’s health.
Let’s look at a drug known as Xanax. Xanax is a benzodiazepine and is not recommended for long-term usage: as your consumption increases, your body begins to need it to function properly. This is known as dependence. It means you’re essentially physically addicted and without having it in your system, you could suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
With Xanax, or other similar medications, it’s meant to be used for one to six weeks total; dependence on the drug can be achieved in as short as one month. This is not a long term solution to dealing with sleep problems.
You should also remember; these drugs are often expensive, and for those who aren’t sufficiently insured, the costs can stack up. The average cost for a prescription of Zoloft for the uninsured can be up to $210 per prescription!
Fortunately, for those who struggle with insomnia but don’t want unfortunate or long-term side effects of taking medication; alternatives exists.
One excellent, all-natural supplement is melatonin. Acting as your brain’s ‘sleep alarm’, Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical and is released when it’s time for bed. Melatonin can be supplemented, is non-habit forming and assists in helping “reset” your sleep clock; opening the door for more frequent and restful sleep.
For those who struggle with the sheer amount of thoughts going on in their head, or distractions from the outside, a white noise machine can be another excellent alternative to medication. White noise machines produces calming and constant sounds to gently lull the listener into a sleep. A constant, pleasant sound can put you in a sense of ease and gently send you to dream land, as opposed to the roaring of your AC unit or the sound of cars outside.
If you prefer falling asleep to entertainment like TV, a podcast focused on putting you to sleep could be of use. Check out www.sleepwithmepodcast.com for a quiet, low-key, sleep inducing podcast. I seriously just get tired listening to them talk.
Ultimately, using medication for a long term approach to getting sleep is not sustainable. You’re far better off finding safer, more natural ways to get some sleep. Good sleep habits aren’t about short term fixes but rather a steady, slow approach to solving your sleep problems as healthily as possible.
About the Author
Nick is an Engineer with a passion for sleep. He is the Editor for Sleepy Deep, a site dedicated to providing the best sleep information. We spend about one third of our lives asleep, yet it is largely undervalued as a source of rejuvenation, health and wellbeing. Reach your daily potential by optimizing your sleep.