Over half (51%) of people who take sleeping remedies have diagnosed themselves, because they do not believe seeking professional medical help is necessary.

This finding, from The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, is a serious concern, because insomnia is usually the result of an underlying physical or mental health problem. If these people do not seek advice from health professionals, they are putting themselves in severe danger.

Research earlier this year also indicate that insomnia is frequently unrecognized and untreated, causing the risk of developing other health problems, such as diabetes, depression, and hypertension.

After interrogating individuals struggling with insomnia, results showed 30% of them took some form of sleeping remedies for longer than a month before seeking a doctor. Fourteen percent of that subgroup had taken them for over six months, while 18% could not remember when they started.

Paul Johnson, community pharmacist, explained:

“It’s worrying that so many people are over-using sleeping remedies. They can be effective for short-term treatment of mild insomnia but should not be taken for long periods without advice because they can hide a serious health problem which could get worse if it remains untreated.”

Only 20% of long-term insomnia, meaning it lasts for over a month, is not linked to any other health condition. A large majority of cases are connected to underlying physical or mental health problems, such as heart disease, depression, asthma or anxiety.

Seventy percent of individuals with insomnia greatly underestimated the amount of cases that could be connected to other health issues, or had no idea connections existed at all.

While 1 in 20 people see a doctor regarding insomnia-related symptoms, 1 in 3 individuals suffer from spells of insomnia. Therefore, many are not getting the help they need.

Johnson commented:

“It’s never a good idea to take any medicine long-term as a result of self-diagnosis, as you can end up treating a symptom rather than addressing the root cause of your problem. Check with your pharmacist if you’ve been buying medicines for insomnia, or any other self-diagnosed condition, on a long-term basis. We can help you find out what’s wrong so you can get the right treatment.”

Those suffering with insomnia have a problem not only getting to sleep, but staying asleep as well. They may wake up frequently throughout the night, or wake up early because they cannot try to sleep any longer, making it difficult to function during the day.

It may be caused by several different things, including stress from work, an illness, and physical or emotional discomfort. Certain medications can even interfere with a good night’s sleep.

There are many easy things you can do on your own that may help you sleep well at night. Some examples include:

  • exercise more, but only in the daytime
  • only drink caffeine in the morning
  • set regular times to go to bed and wake up each day
  • don’t fill your belly just before bedtime
  • maintain a comfortable sleeping environment
  • put your an alarm clock in a place you cannot see it, watching the clock will keep you awake

Johnson concluded:

“Insomnia is very common and causes distress, frustration and fatigue. Pharmacists can talk to you about insomnia, advise you about your medicines and recommend the right course of action. The vast majority of pharmacies now have a private consultation area where you can talk in private and won’t be overheard.”

Written by Sarah Glynn