Table of Contents

I. Introduction
• Importance of sleep for physical and mental health
• National Sleep Awareness Week and its theme
• Recommended hours of sleep per day
II. Common Sleep Disorders
III. Guide to Common Prescription Sleeping Aids
• Orexin Receptor Antagonist
• Antidepressants
• Melatonin
• Benzodiazepines
• Non-Benzodiazepine Hypnotics
IV. Survey Rating the Important Aspects of a Good Night’s Sleep
V. Healthy Sleeping Habits


A good night’s sleep is an important aspect of your physical and mental health. Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is also considered one of the important elements for healthy living.  Inadequate sleep can result in several medical problems such as diabetes and heart disease, so, therefore an individual should get a good sleep on an average of seven to nine hours a day.

The National Sleep Awareness Week hopes to highlight the importance of good sleep which is essential to achieve one’s personal goals. The theme of this year is ‘Begin with Sleep’ and those interested in participating in the awareness campaign can join the National Sleep Foundation in celebrating the Sleep Awareness week from March 10 to 16, 2019. The campaign hopes to provide information about the benefits of optimal sleep and how it not only affects the normal well-being of an individual’s health but also their safety.


What are some of the common Sleep Disorders?

It is estimated that around 70 million Americans tend to experience sleep disorders which prevent the person from getting sufficient sleep and results in daytime sleepiness and dysfunction. Some of the common sleep disorders are;

  • Insomnia: This is characterized by difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. Most of the people can experience a short-term insomnia because of stress or traumatic event which only lasts for days or weeks. Chronic insomnia can last for a month or more and can also be the result of a medical condition or medications.
  • Sleep Apnea: This can be a serious sleep disorder when the individual’s breathing becomes interrupted during sleep. There are two forms of sleep apnea; Obstructive sleep apnea and Central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common one that occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes and blocks the airway during sleep. But, in the case of the central sleep apnea, the brain does not tell the body to breathe and most of the people with this type gasp for air.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome: This is the irresistible urge to move the legs and typically occurs in the evening making it very difficult to sleep. Individuals with this problem often tend to walk around to relieve the uncomfortable sensation.
  • Narcolepsy: This is a neurological disorder of sleep regulation and individuals with this problem tend to experience excessive daytime sleepiness and episodes of sleeping during the daytime.


A guide to common prescription sleeping aids

Millions of individuals in the United States continuing to struggle with sleeping problems seek prescription sleep aids to provide relief which helps them to sleep faster and more soundly. There are different types of sleep aids each containing different ingredients with varying effects. It is important to always discuss with your physician when deciding about the best sleep aid and here we discuss some of the common prescription sleep aids and how they function.

  • Orexin Receptor Antagonist: It is the most recent insomnia drugs approved by the FDA which works differently than the other sleep aids. It functions by inhibiting the activity of chemical orexin in the brain which normally keeps people awake and alert. This class of drug targets a localized area of the brain and is considered to have fewer side effects than the other ones.
  • Antidepressants: Until recently, insomnia was believed to be the side effect of depression, therefore, physicians believed that treating depression with antidepressants, it could also help insomnia. However, recent research suggests that antidepressants could actually contribute to insomnia.
  • Melatonin: Initially used as a sleep aid in the 1990s, melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep and wakefulness cycle. Naturally, melatonin levels increase in the nighttime making people feel sleepy, so therefore, for insomnia, increasing melatonin via medication could help. It is also considered to have relatively fewer side effects and not believed to be addictive.
  • Benzodiazepines: This works by enhancing the action of GASA which is a neurotransmitter that slows the activity in the brain. Although it is considered to be effective in the short-term, the long-term use can present side effects such as reduced duration of deep sleep and building a tolerance requiring people to increase the dosage.
  • Non-Benzodiazepine Hynotics: This functions in a similar way as benzodiazepine by increasing the levels of GABA but only affects few brain receptors with fewer side effects and limited impact on deep sleep. However, it is known to present memory loss and fatigue.


Survey rating the important aspects of a Good Night’s Sleep

According to the results of a survey published in the National Sleep Foundation, more than 76% of people surveyed had a good nights’ sleep at least a few nights a week, most of them sleep on an average of 6 hours and 44 minutes on work nights and around 7 hours and 35 minutes on non-work nights. When they were asked to rate the elements important for getting a good sleep on a scale from 5 (very important) to 1 (not important at all), about nine in one rated comfortable mattress (93%), comfortable pillows (91%) and comfortable feel of sheets and bedding (86%). The other elements that also had a high rating include a quiet room, dark room, cool room temperature, fresh air free of allergens and clean bedroom.


Healthy Sleeping Habits

Everyone has moments when they just can’t seem to sleep and suffer from problems that make it near impossible to get proper rest. But, regardless of the problems, it is important to establish healthy sleep habits. To help you sleep well, here are few healthy habits;

  • Use the bedroom for sleep only
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow
  • Don’t drink, smoke or have heavy meals close to bedtime
  • Create a regular bedtime routine and a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on the weekends which will help regulate your body’s clock
  • Create a relaxing environment which has fresh air, is comfortable and dark
  • If you have trouble with sleeping, it is best to avoid naps particularly in the afternoon
  • Avoid disturbing sounds