Daylights Savings Time & Insomnia
Why Sleeping Pills May Not Be the Best Option

Toss. Turn. Toss.
Sit up. Get up.
Move around. Lay down.
Eyes open. Eyes close.

This routine may be a familiar dance to you if you've ever had problems sleeping. Insomnia is a common problem affecting many adults and can be caused by a number of different things, including depression and anxiety; use of tablets and similar devices; or time or schedule changes, like Daylight Savings Time, which is coming up on November 6th.
You may feel the need to ask your doctor for sleeping pills. However, prescription sleeping pills have a number of side effects that can impact your health. They can also range widely in cost, with some being very expensive over time, and they may not be covered by your insurance.
Side effects can range from dependency to sleepwalking to dizziness and hallucinations. As a part of the Choosing Wisely ® initiative, Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) provide a detailed explanation of why sleeping pills may not be the best option for insomnia -- and what you might be able to do instead for a better night's sleep.
The goal of Choosing Wisely® , an initiative of the ABIM Foundation with Consumer Reports as a lead partner, is to advance a national dialogue on avoiding wasteful or unnecessary medical tests, treatments, and procedures. Sleeping pills are not always necessary, but the most important thing is to talk with your doctor and find out what's best for you. Use the 5 Questions to get started, and remember to ask about less risky and less costly options. In addition to talking with your doctor, Consumer Reports suggests trying these actions to get a better night's sleep:
  • Stick to a schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Create a peaceful place to sleep. Reduce noise and outside light. Don't have a TV in the bedroom.
  • Limit use of e-readers or other devices. Screens actually prevent feelings of sleepiness. Stop using them one to two hours before bedtime. Or dim the light on the screen.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Don't eat much within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Get regular exercise. It will help you sleep better. But don't do it right before going to bed.
  • Avoid tossing and turning. Don't watch the clock. If you can't sleep after 20 minutes or so, get out of bed. Do something relaxing (like reading a book) that doesn't involve the use of screens. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.

Know that insomnia can affect everyone from young children to the elderly. Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have put together individual materials on how to best treat insomnia without prescription sleeping pills, for both kids and adults. They can be viewed here:

Daylights Savings Time starts on November 6th. As we set our clocks back, our schedules can change, possibly affecting our sleep. Be prepared to try and adjust for this time change to minimize any potential impact it may have.
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