Sleep Week: The pros and cons of sleep aids
If you need a little help falling asleep, you're not alone. According to the CDC, one in eight adults with trouble sleeping use sleep aids to get some rest. A supplement like melatonin or medication like Lunesta can help, but doctors say the long-term effects could affect your health.
Many night owls and the early risers look for different ways to rest their bodies. I spoke to a businessman who says taking sleeping aids at night is part of the reason he's energetic for his customers in the morning.
Mike Seekins is up bright and early every morning, spending hours in the kitchen, prepping his breakfast spread. “It's pretty good, pretty good,” said Seekins, owner of Biscuits, Burgers, and More. “Everything's hand-bread. Fresh, not ever frozen.”
Seekins calls it the 'vampire shift' that tricks his body to be alert before the sunrises and to rest before the sun sets. “I'm up at 2:30 a.m. and I'm at work by 3 a.m.,” said Seekins. “I force myself to stay up so I can crash hard later.”
But Seekins has a little help. “Because of my age -- I'm 56 -- so I take sleep aids so I'm not up at night,” said Seekins.
Seekins is one of millions. In 2013, the CDC reported more than 9 million adults in the U.S. take sleep aids. One in eight adults use prescription medication like Lunesta or Ambien. “They can be helpful at stimulating sleep in some people,” said sleep specialist Mark Hendricks.
Dr. Mark Hendricks with Central Georgia Pulmonary says, over-the-counter or prescription medicine can be helpful especially for seniors. But over time, patients could see more side effects, especially if you're taking more than one medication at a time. “That could mean having more agitation, delirium, dry mouth, constipation, cardiac arrhythmia. So they definitely need to be careful,” said Hendricks.
But if you take the medication as directed, Seekins says a good night's sleep makes for a good morning start.
Another thing to keep in mind, Hendricks says many prescription sleeping aids can be habit-forming. He says it's best to speak with your doctor before taking any sleeping pills.