3 signs you’ve built up a tolerance to sleep aids and what to do instead

Whether you suffer from chronic insomnia or occasionally struggle to fall asleep, sleep aids — including over-the-counter and prescription drugs — can provide much-needed relief to help you get a better night’s sleep. good night. But over time, you may find that these drugs don’t work as well as they used to. If so, you may have developed a tolerance to that sleep aid. This Sleep Awareness Week, better rest.

Below we’ll share some of the most common signs of sleep aid tolerance and explain what to do if you have one.

What Are Sleeping Aids?

Sleep aids are drugs or remedies that help you feel tired so you can fall and stay asleep. They can be used to treat a number of sleep-related issues, including insomnia and circadian rhythm-related disorders. Sleep aids come in a variety of strengths and dosages, from natural supplements (such as melatonin) to over-the-counter medications (such as antihistamines) to prescription-only pills (such as melatonin receptor agonists).

Certain sleep aids — especially stronger ones like benzodiazepines — can be addictive, and many are for short-term use only. Your doctor can advise you on the best sleep aid for you, depending on your overall health and the cause of your sleep problems.

Signs of a tolerance to sleeping pills

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If you regularly take certain sleep aids before going to bed, you may begin to build up a tolerance, which means your body gets used to the medication and your usual dosage becomes less effective. These are some key signs that you may have a sleep aid tolerance.

Increase your dose

When you start taking a sleep aid, you will probably take the same dose every night. As time goes by, you may find that your usual dose is not as effective as when you started it, and you need to take more to get the same results. This is one of the clearest indications that you are becoming tolerant to sleeping pills.

Rebound insomnia

You may have trouble sleeping after you stop taking your sleeping pill, especially if you stop cold turkey. This is known as rebound insomnia and can occur even if you only take the sleep aid for a short time. It is a common side effect of cessation sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines and Z drugs, such as zolpidem and zaleplon, which are sold under the brand names Xanax and Sonata respectively.

Anxiety and irritability

Once you build up a tolerance, it can be difficult to fall asleep on a standard dose of your sleep aid. As a result, you may lie awake feeling anxious or irritable about falling asleep. Then, if you haven’t gotten enough quality sleep, you may also feel those feelings of anxiety and irritability the next day.

Natural sleep remedies to try instead

Glass cup of tea, sleeping mask and flowers on a white bedding.

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Worried about developing a tolerance to sleeping pills or experiencing the uncomfortable side effects of sleeping pills? You might consider switching to one of these natural sleep remedies – make sure you speak to your doctor first.


Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced and released by the brain. As it gets dark at night, melatonin levels begin to rise, which tells your body to go to sleep. Levels drop as dawn approaches, signaling it’s time to wake up.

Many people take lab-made melatonin supplements to help them wind down at night and fall asleep faster. In fact, according to a study by SleepFoundation.org, melatonin is the most popular sleep aid in the US, used by an estimated 27.4% of US adults. It is also used to treat conditions such as jet lag, delayed sleep disorder, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind.

Tart cherry juice

Multiple studies have suggested that tart cherries, such as Montmorency cherries, contain several properties that may help improve your sleep. For starters, tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a sleep hormone that regulates your waking and sleeping patterns.

In addition, tart cherries also have a small amount of an amino acid called tryptophan. In the body, tryptophan is converted into serotonin, which can help improve your sleep quality.

Herbal tea

Sipping a non-caffeinated herbal tea before bed is another natural way to fall asleep without relying on drugs. For example, teas made from valerian root and chamomile have calming effects that can help you relax and fall asleep.

In addition, lavender is another plant with calming properties, so drinking lavender tea can help you fall asleep. However, there is no specific research yet on how lavender tea affects sleep. Similarly, researchers have found that passion flower could potentially be used as a treatment for insomnia, so a cup of passion flower tea in the evening could be another good natural sleep aid.


Magnesium is a mineral that plays many important roles in the human body, from aiding muscle function to regulating blood sugar to making proteins and DNA. If you don’t have enough of it in your body, you may have trouble sleeping or struggle with poor sleep quality.

Some studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements helps people with insomnia fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and get better quality sleep. It can also be a good alternative to melatoninwhich can make you feel drowsy in the morning.


Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short, is an amino acid found in the brain and in certain fermented foods, teas, and other food products. Its role is to block chemical signals in the nervous system and slow down the brain, which has a relaxing effect on the body.

Taking GABA supplements 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime can put your mind at ease, making it easier for you to fall asleep. And, like magnesium, GABA is becoming a popular option for people who have high blood pressure natural sleep aid but don’t enjoy the hangover feeling they get the morning after taking melatonin.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.

3 signs you’ve built up a tolerance to sleep aids and what to do instead

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