Marty Pittak, R.Ph. Akron-Cedar St. Location

Q: I sometimes have difficulties getting to sleep, what can I do?

A: It's important to create a restful sleep environment. Start with a comfortable bed and pillows, as well as a pleasant room temperature - all frequently referred to as sleep hygiene. Proper exercise during the day promotes restful sleep, but not too close to bedtime. It is also best to avoid watching TV and drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages late at night.

Q: Are sleeping pills an option?

A: Behavior changes and proper sleep hygiene are the best treatment for persistent insomnia. For occasional sleepless nights, short-term prescription medications can be useful. To reduce dependency risks, your doctor will likely limit their use to two weeks or less.

Both brand-name and generic sleep preparations are available. All of these medications carry the potential to be habit forming, with the exception of Rozerem® - a melatonin-like drug that is unrelated chemically to the others.

Possible side effects of sleeping preparations are dizziness, headache, gastro-intestinal problems (such as bloating, constipation or nausea), prolonged drowsiness, and unusual sleep behaviors like sleep-driving or sleep-eating.

Q: Could my medications be affecting my sleep?

A: Yes, some of the more common medications that may cause sleep disturbance are:

  • Bronchodilators, such as albuterol or theophylline, which are used to treat asthma or improve breathing
  • Mood-elevating medications such as Prozac®, Zoloft® or Lexapro®
  • Steriods like prednisone and cortisone
  • Phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine that are found in many over-the-counter cold preparations

Q: Are there natural products I can use to help me sleep?

A: Yes, preparations that are available over-the-counter include Melatonin, which is a naturally occurring bodily hormone thought to be effective in promoting both the onset and quality of sleep. Herbal sleep aids are also available, such as Valerian root and Chamomile, which seem to promote a feeling of calmness and provide sleep-inducing effects.

Homeopathy is another natural alternative. Hylands® Calm Forté relieves stress and relaxes with Chamomile. Boiron® Coffea Cruda helps with sleeplessness and mental hyperactivity. Boiron® Quietude also helps with sleeplessness and restless sleep.

One big advantage of the natural preparations is that they're generally less expensive than some of the prescription products and, when used as directed, are generally considered safe with few side effects.

Not sure what natural products you can take with your prescriptions? Ask your Ritzman pharmacist!