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Consumer Reports: The truth about sleep medications

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Posted at 4:00 AM, Feb 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-14 09:08:12-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - What do you do when you’re having trouble sleeping?

“The truth is not sleeping enough isn’t just annoying, it can actually contribute to serious health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain and depression," says Lauren Friedman, Consumer Reports.

For short-term sleep problems, your healthcare provider may suggest a drug or supplement to help you catch some Z’s. If your doctor prescribes sleep drugs, it may only increase your sleep by about 20 to 30 minutes.

“All prescription sleep meds come with risks, including being drowsy the next day," says Friedman. "Some have also been linked to sleepwalking and other odd nighttime behaviors. So, you should take the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.”

Another option might be over the counter sleep drugs, which can also cause drowsiness the next day, and may be habit forming when taken long-term. If sleeping pills worry you, you might be more comfortable taking the popular supplement, melatonin. But there’s little evidence that it actually works, unless you have jetlag. An increasingly popular choice is CBD, which has shown to have mild side effects and is not addictive. But some research suggests that its effect on sleep might lessen with extended use.

“Because CBD is inconsistently regulated, you should ask the seller or manufacturer for the Certificate of Analysis, which shows the results from the company’s own tests," says Friedman.

And If you suffer from chronic sleep problems, Consumer Reports suggests Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.

“With CBT-I, you work with a therapist to help fix bad habits, like using your smartphone too close before bedtime," says Friedman. "A therapist can also give you tips to help improve your sleep environment, like keeping your room dark and cool enough.”

Consumer Reports also wants to remind you that no sleep drug should ever be taken with alcohol, opioids, or any other sedative.