Sleep Aids: Helpful or Detrimental?

For college students during finals week, sleep may seem like a distant memory. If you’re anything like me, falling asleep has not always been an easy task. While some people can fall asleep in the blink of an eye, I always find myself lying awake at night for at least 30 to 40 minutes before I am actually sleeping. All of my friends used to tell me to take Nyquil, but I was way too chicken to try it. After going to my doctor, she told me to grab some over the counter melatonin. Now, with the use of melatonin, I can comfortably fall asleep within a 20-minute range.

My use of melatonin got me thinking: what makes a sleep aid like melatonin safe? What about substances like Nyquil or Zzzquil?

Glamour magazine did a write up about whether using Nyquil to sleep every night was dangerous. The article came to the conclusion that while it is not dangerous, it is not a way to permanently improve sleep. Relying on sleep aids does not fix the sleeping problem; instead all it does is use medication instead of the natural body rhythms.

"Many adults no longer go through these sleep preliminaries, either because they are not physically tired or because alcohol or caffeine has disrupted their normal physical rhythms. But if you intentionally bring them back, you'll find you sleep better,” Dr. Neal Barnard told Glamour magazine back in 2009.

Essentially, a sleep preliminary is the routine that we through in order to fall asleep. In today’s busy day and age, especially in college, we do not have a set bed routine. Instead we drink coffee until all hours of the night trying to finish our papers, or lay awake scrolling through Instagram. Staring at bright lights such as a computer or phone also trick our brains into thinking that it is earlier in the day since light naturally resets our circadian rhythm.

The same can be said about melatonin. Since the body naturally produces melatonin, taking a tablet simply adds more and reinforces your sleep and wake cycle, according to Mayo Clinc. Again, this is just a quick fix to getting a good night sleep. Like substances such as NyQuil, melatonin tablets will not cure insomnia.

 

So what’s the best way to cure your sleeping problems? Put down the phone, turn all of the lights off, and get into bed around the same time every night. Even though it may not help right away, creating a non-stimulating bedtime routine will definitely help out in the long run.