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方春慧

Fong Chun Wai Esther

註冊藥劑師

Registered Pharmacist

Sleeping Pills
are not a panacea

Urban inhabitants have a fast pace of life and have long been busy coping with all kinds of pressures. As Hong Kong residents live in the top 10 most densely populated cities in the world, living in cramp living spaces, it is not difficult to imagine why more and more people have insomnia. Also, genetic factors, upbringing, personality or physical illness such as mood disorders, nasal allergy, asthma, sleep apnea, eczema, etc., will affect the quality of sleep.

When I worked as a pharmacist at a community pharmacy, customers regularly requested to buy over-the-counter (OTC) medication to help sleep. The benefits of using OTC medication to treat insomnia are fast and effective. However, the disadvantages are that customers are prone to develop drug resistance as well as possibly waking up still feeling tired. They also need to bear side effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision and difficulty urinating etc. Therefore, I often remind customers that OTC drugs are only applicable to short-term insomnia. As for chronic insomnia, we must consult a doctor to find out the cause in order to solve the problem effectively.

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Think more may lose more sleep

A common misunderstanding of people with insomnia may also make their sleeplessness persist or even deteriorate. Some people have incredibly negative perceptions of sleep deprivation, thinking that it will affect their health and work performance. So they endeavour to avoid insomnia, even going as far as forcing themselves to fall asleep. Ironically, this kind of belief only causes anxiety and leads to greater difficulty in falling asleep. People with insomnia can try to ease off on this issue, accept that they are prone to it, and tell themselves that intermittent insomnia is not a big problem. It is best to change your negative thoughts. Instead of telling yourself that it is "bad", apply a positive attitude and tell yourself that "I may have insomnia tonight, but I will be able to  sleep fine tomorrow.” So that you can calm your mind and you may even fall asleep naturally.

Is it be a lifestyle problem?

People with insomnia should evaluate their daily lives. Is their sleeping environment too noisy or too bright? Too much pressure at work? Relationship stress? Irregular schedule? Long-term use of electronics? (Studies have shown that blue light from electronic products affects the body's biological clock and cause sleep problems2). If factors associated with daily-life cause insomnia and continue to persist, even with consumption of sleep medication, the effect of improving insomnia is limited. On the contrary, there is a chance that long-term drug use increases resistance. In the end, higher doses or stronger medication may be required, which may do more harm than good.

Reference: [1] 認識安眠藥藥物資訊單張 葵涌醫院 醫院管理局 [2] Megumi Hatori., et al. Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induces circadian disruption in modern aging societies. NPJ Aging Mech Dis. 2017: 3 :9. doi: 10.1038/s41514-017-0010-2

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