Are there any sleeping pills that I can take that arent physically addictive?
June 15, 2006 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Are there any sleeping pills that I can take that arent physically addictive?

Im trying to find something I can take only as a last resort when I cant get to sleep. Ideally Id like to find some kind of chart that breaks down all of the sleeping pills doctors prescribe and the pros and cons of them. This can include herbal / home remedies like pot or warm milk... as long as its something people take to fall asleep successfully. Someone saying 'here, this sleeping pill isnt addictive' isnt good enough. I wont take it unless I can find out all about it and the kind of drug it is because the fact is people can say something is safe all they want but that doesnt make it so...
posted by GleepGlop to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't get addicted to much if you don't use it often enough. If you are having trouble getting to sleep on a regular basis, there may be something wrong where you should probably have a doctor look at you. I'd stay away from pills entirely and try other solutions.

The best non-addictive ways to get to sleep? Remove caffeine and stimulants from your diet. Set a quiet time before bed where you can relax and maybe meditate. Get a white noise generator in your bedroom. Listen to relaxing music. Watch tv while laying on the couch in the late evening.
posted by JJ86 at 1:43 PM on June 15, 2006

melatonin works wonders for me. i use them maybe 2-3 times per week, and have off an on for 5 years. no aftereffects, no sideeffects other than particularly vivid dreams.
posted by luriete at 1:50 PM on June 15, 2006

When I took my third and fourth year pharmacology courses we were told that all sleep aids were highly mentally addictive and to avoid them at all costs. The addiction is because of how hard it is to re-establish a regular sleeping pattern after stopping usage. When you stop taking them your sleeping patterns will be even more disrupted than before you started and so promote long-term use. Personally, I would avoid them and just struggle through the insomnia.

Have you tried setting up a "bedtime" routine? I suffer from mild insomnia and I have one in which I use a heating pad on my neck while reading before I turn out the lights. I only use the heating pad before bed so part of me knows that if the heating pad is on, sleep is imminent. Establishing a routine helped me through several bouts of insomnia (although I don't think I've slept a full night in years).

Insomnia sucks large but I'd rather have the hope that someday I'll be able to sleep a whole night rather than take the sleep aid and never be able to do that again sans drugs.
posted by LunaticFringe at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I definitely want to avoid the scenario of not being able to sleep without the drugs ive gotten used to, but I think it is possible that there is something out there that if I only took it a few days in a row to get my schedule back on track and then didnt use it until my next insomnia bout, I may be OK... I mean people smoke pot sometimes to help them fall asleep, and Id be highly surprised if they found themselves unable to sleep without smoking pot, since I dont think the stuff has any physically addicting properties whatsoever.
As for routine, I just got the idea from the doctor today (who obviously was unable to answer all of my questions) but I think it may be subject to the same pitfall as pills: if you are unable to get that warm milk or that book to read, will you not be able to fall asleep?
posted by GleepGlop at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2006

I keep hearing about how addictive sleep aids are, and I don't see it.

I'm not a good sleeper, and I use over the counter generic 'sleep aid' (25mg diphenhydramine, I believe) anywhere from 0-5 times a week depending on how I feel. I'll go days and days at a time without using them. Not a big deal to me. Not even groggy in the morning, as long as I've got 6-8 hours to sleep them off.

Of course, I am not a doctor.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:59 PM on June 15, 2006

Valerian is a herbal... supplement, whatever you call them, that apparently helps people get to sleep.

There are also certain medicines that have drowsiness as a side effect, specifically some older-style antihistamines and gravol. For some people, the side effect is enough to knock them out. I wouldn't say they're addictive per se, but you could probably develop a dependency on using them to fall asleep if you used them too often.
posted by GuyZero at 2:00 PM on June 15, 2006

Response by poster: You don't get addicted to much if you don't use it often enough.

I agree, but... I just got prescribed this 3 in 1 wonder pill that is an antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and sleeping pill that I doubt I will be filling. I dont care about getting addicted to that, I just dont want to be messing my brain up with that kind of stuff at all.
posted by GleepGlop at 2:01 PM on June 15, 2006

Over-the-counter diphenhydramine is the same as benadryl, by the way. It just helps make you droswy enough to drift off. Note that diphenydramine is in many common cold medicines, such as tylenol pm and nyquil, so avoid overdosing on it...
posted by SpecialK at 2:04 PM on June 15, 2006

I love Elavil (generic name amitriptyline). Here's the Wikipedia entry on it. Started out as an anti-depressent, but it's great sleep aid too.

My doctor says it's non-addictive, and hey -- he takes it too! It doesn't make you drowsy, but it keeps you sleeping very soundly after you fall asleep. I use it occasionally, not every night. Couldn't live without it on international flights.

Ask your doc about it.
posted by nancoix at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Very few if any over-the-counter sleeping aids are physically addictive in the sense that you will go into withdrawal without them. However if you take anything regularly to help you sleep, you may discover you have difficulty sleeping without it.

Melatonin works well for me. I also use benadryl during allergy season, but you can quickly build up a tolerance to its sedative effects.
posted by justkevin at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2006

I second the advise from luriete.

I use melatonin when travelling. If I take it, I can sleep the first night in a new hotel. If I do not take it, I stay awake for hours before falling asleep. I have a crash the next day where I can barely stay awake.

I use it perhaps 6-10 times a year. Works wonders and I have noticed no side effects.

Melatonin is a natually occuring hormone used in sleep regulation. Google it if you want too...
posted by Leenie at 2:11 PM on June 15, 2006

It used to be that doctors would prescribe barbiturates as sleeping pills; those are the ones people used to overdose on in order to commit suicide. And barbiturates are definitely addictive.

Later they began to use certain benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium, Xanax), which are extremely difficult to overdose with, but which are also definitely addictive. Benzo withdrawal is really rather nasty, in fact, but it usually takes 6 months or so of steady use for physical addiction to occur.

Your "anti-anxiety" drug is almost certainly a benzodiazepine.

There's a drug called Ambien which is not from either of those groups which is apparently a quite potent sleeping pill. But it affects some people strangely; there have been a lot of reports of sleep-walking among people using it -- and even cases of sleep-driving. And apparently it, too, is addictive.

OTC sleeping pills are antihistamines, and so far as I know those are not really addictive. But I agree that routine use of any sleeping aid is going to have consequences once you stop using it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:14 PM on June 15, 2006

Elavil is one of the tricyclic antidepressants, and they are not addictive. But as a group they tend to have rather severe side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation, vivid dreams, weight gain, and sexual disfunction in men.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:18 PM on June 15, 2006

Doctors will prescribe a low dose of an antipsychotic for people with simultaneous mental health issues, insomnia issues, and addiction issues. A common prescription is for 25 mg or 12.5 mg of Seroquel (quetiapine).
posted by crazycanuck at 2:24 PM on June 15, 2006

Was your 3-in-1 wonder drug trazodone by any chance? If so, I can say from personal experience (as well as research) that it really is incredibly effective and has no addictive potential.
posted by feathermeat at 2:33 PM on June 15, 2006

Response by poster: Indeed it was trazodone.
posted by GleepGlop at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2006

Not sure if it addresses your exact question, but I'd be inclined to skip the meds altogether and look first at the non-medical ways of addressing sleep problems - which means identifying why you're not sleeping well in the first place.

Noise? Earplugs
Light? Thicker curtains / eye mask
Stress? Do more exercise (not close to bedtime) and write a 'To Do' list for the next day before you get into bed
Not tired? Get your body into a routine - a regular bedtime, warm bath and glass of hot milk (contains tryptophan which induces sleep) before bed - and get a massage if it's available in your house!
Jet lag (business travel)? Melatonin, fresh carrot juice on arrival and acting as if you're on arrival time zone from the moment you get to the departure airport
Just can't sleep one night? Accept that you can't get to sleep and lie in bed planning your next holiday or fantasising about what you'd do if you won the lottery - resting is almost as good as sleeping, as long as you don't stress about not being asleep. If it's only one night, you'll still be functional the next day.

The key question is, when you can't sleep, why is that? The solution depends on the reason - sleeping pills/aids just mask the symptoms, they don't address the cause.
posted by bella.bellona at 3:02 PM on June 15, 2006

Melatonin. I would like to add something about it.
They sell now, extended release melatonin pills. I tried them because I thought they will give me a better sleep through out the night. They do work that way but you have to be careful what time you take them, experiment with it. If you took it at a later time and did not get enough sleep you will find it very difficult to wake up and not feel rested.

As for the other kind of pills, 'regular' I found it worked faster.
posted by convex at 3:56 PM on June 15, 2006

I was given a prescription just yesterday for doxepin. I have maddeningly persistent hives that have seriously messed with my sleep schedule. My doctor said that this drug is good for sleep, itching, and is an anti-depressant.

Another doctor a few weeks ago gave me a short-term scrip for Ambien, but wouldn't consider giving me a "regular" scrip, as it's addictive. I was told that the doxepin does not have that same problem. Previously, I've used both melatonin or the Tylenol "Simply Sleep" stuff (which has the exact dosage of the same drug as regular Benadryl) with no problems. Neither is addictive, but after 3 nights straight of melatonin, I would, without fail, start breaking out like a teenager on a Twinkie and chocolate bender.

I know of no such chart or matrix of sleep drugs, but I think it would be a useful thing. Might be hard to keep track of the various side effects, though. The "remotely possible" side effects for the doxepin read like a potential slasher flick.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:59 PM on June 15, 2006

Melatonin works great, and it is not addictive. I have used Tylenol PM, and I must say, it is a monkey on my back. Sure, I ditch it for awhile but I always go back to it. It is, no matter what anyone says..addictive! But, melatonin is great.
posted by peglam at 4:32 PM on June 15, 2006

Melatonin, definitely. I've never NEEDED it to fall asleep, but whenever I take it it helps.

Bonus: take some vitamin B6 with it and you'll have crazy-vivid dreams.
posted by borkingchikapa at 6:06 PM on June 15, 2006

I've tried Valerian and it worked for my mild insomnia. unfortunately, it worked a little too well and made me very groggy in the morning. Still, I haven't heard this morning grogginess happening to many other people who've used it so YMMV.
posted by Kronoss at 8:37 PM on June 15, 2006

(I'm a doctor)

For most people, I think the addiction risk to benzodiazepenes is sort of overstated. If you are truly the type of person who will really only be using as a last resort, I think they work the best with the fewest side effects. Something mild and short-acting like Ambien.

Of course, there are tons of people who do get dependent but this really takes consistent use over weeks and if you are as cautious as you sound, it seems likely to me you'd see this coming before it was a problem. Plus any scrupulous doctor shouldn't be refilling these kinds of drugs long term in large amounts.

Certainly, I echo all the things everyone says above about sleep hygeine. The mind needs to be allowed to passively prepare for sleep for a good couple hours before hitting the hay. No exercise right before bed, no heavy meals, limit your alcohol, do something passive. Definitely stay off of Metafilter late at night. White noise, dark curtains, no TV in the bedroom. These interventions add up more than you think in terms of promoting sleep.

But to answer your question, of course, there are plenty of sedating, non-addictive medicines. Trazadone, Benedryl, amitriptyline, doxepin. Probably a dozen others that are equally non-addictive. These just have more side effects, things like morning grogginess, dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, etc. I have no direct experience with Lunesta but I doubt it's much different from Ambien.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:39 PM on June 15, 2006

Absolutely melatonin. I get pleasantly sleepy (instead of "doped up") feeling, and don't have that "zombie" feeling the next day like I do with diphenhydramine.
posted by mrbill at 12:41 AM on June 16, 2006

I can say with assurance that if you use either Ambien or Lunesta long-term, you will wind up with a rather nasty dependency problem. My advice is not to take these drugs at all. They work well, and you will want to use them because they work, and then you'll run into big problems getting off them. Note to Slarty: Doctors have apparently only recently gotten the word that Ambien and Lunesta are trouble. My doctor refilled my scrips for these drugs for five years, and said they were safe to take long-term. Now we both know different, but I'm the one who has to suffer the withdrawal. Word. Bad on me for not questioning every word my doc said about these meds.
posted by lustra at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2006

Mmmm. I see your point, lustra. I've always had it hammered into me that benzos, including Ambien and Lunesta, have too high a risk of addiction to prescribe them more than a handful at a time so it amazes me to hear of doctors who prescribe these chronically. My only point is that there is a total lack of science to quantify the danger and the hysteria over addiction seems to be based more on bias and fear than actual risk.

It doesn't help that drug companies like nothing better than selling an expensive, potentially addictive drug for a relatively common condition. It pains me that doctors swallow the bullshit that the drug reps feed them without questioning it.

Of course, if someone has a chronic insomnia the solution is not to medicate yourself every night. The poster above wanted something to take "as a last resort."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:03 AM on June 16, 2006

I can recommend a very mild tranquilizer called Imovaine.
Cut one in half for an even smaller dose. You'll sleep tight. I also had good experiences with Valerian. I'm not usually one to go for herbal concoctions, but it did make
me drowsy enough to beat a period of insomnia.
posted by archae at 12:39 AM on June 18, 2006

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