How to Break Away from Sleeping Medication

Two Methods:Stopping the MedicationPracticing Sleep Hygiene Strategies

Due to the high stress levels of our current times, sleeping pills and other forms of sleeping medication have become a norm. Most prescribed medication is highly addictive and it is only a matter of time before you risk becoming dependent and unable to sleep without it. Sleep is important to keep the body and the mind adequately rested. Working on improving sleep hygiene and getting help from your doctor can help you ease off of sleeping aids and get a good night's sleep on your own.

Method 1
Stopping the Medication

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    Speak to your doctor first. If you're currently taking sleeping medication and it's playing havoc with your sleep and general health and wellbeing, you should notify your doctor and explain what is happening. Your doctor will be able to advise you as to whether or not you can quit the pills outright or whether there needs to be an adjustment period.
    • Don't presume you're stuck taking pills. Be adamant that you wish to minimize or stop using the sleeping medication altogether and make your doctor your ally in achieving this outcome. Discuss lifestyle changes that can help improve your sleep.
    • You may wish it ask about weaker sedatives or natural alternatives such as the natural sedative valerian tea, or melatonin supplements,[1] but keep in mind these can interact with other medications, and you should speak with your doctor before use.
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    Make a plan to stop taking the sleeping medication. Don't throw the pills away just yet; they are insurance to prevent you from panicking and they are still available for those terrible nights when you really do feel like you need them.[2] At the same time, you need to commit to giving them up permanently as carefully and as thoroughly as possible.
    • If your doctor has suggested a gradual withdrawal program, stick with it. This will greatly increase your chances of success, as quitting sleeping medication too suddenly can throw your body totally out of balance.[3]
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    Believe in your own ability to sleep naturally and accept your own sleep needs. Some people need more sleep while others need less hours of sleep in order to function optimally; know your own needs and nurture them.
    • Also be sure to implement the remaining suggestions in the following steps; each is a practical means by which you gain control back over your sleeping routine and, in turn, make your plan more likely to succeed.[4]
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    Know what to expect. Depending on the type of sleep medication, withdrawal symptoms can occur. You may feel anxious, edgy, irritable, and depressed, and you may find yourself sweating, experiencing tremors, and increased heart rate, and nausea.[5] You may experience "rebound insomnia," which means you may experience great difficulty falling asleep after you come off the sleeping medication — possibly worse than what caused you to start taking sleeping pills in the first place.[6] Rebound insomnia often causes people to relapse and start taking sleeping meds again, but you must remember that is it temporary, and side effects should go away after about two weeks.[7] Speak with your doctor about how to handle rebound insomnia, or if you are experiencing depression or anxiety that lasts several weeks or months after you stop.[8]
    • You may also experience vivid, strange, and disturbing dreams.[9] Again, this is a normal part of withdrawal and it will go away.
    • Implementing self relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can assist you in getting through this time. Remember that this is temporary.

Method 2
Practicing Sleep Hygiene Strategies

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    Get into a regular sleep routine. When you break away from your sleeping medication, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to set up a healthy, regular sleeping routine. Although you will still likely experience withdrawal symptoms from the medication in the first few weeks, practicing what is called "sleep hygiene" can help to counter-balance the withdrawal and to set you up for lasting success with your new sleep pattern.[10]
    • The first step in sleep hygiene is to set a wake-up time that is the same every day. Even on weekends, you should be getting up at the same time that you do on weekdays.
    • If you find that you are tired, the best strategy is to go to bed earlier rather than changing your wake-up time.
    • Therefore, if the alarm goes off, make sure you get up; if you remain fatigued throughout the day, you can go to bed earlier and eventually your body will adapt. Try making your bed time earlier in 15-minute increments.
    • An additional benefit to this strategy is that your body naturally becomes more tired at night. When you know that "sleeping in" past your alarm is not an option, you learn to listen to your body as it naturally gets tired in the evening and to use this as your signal of when it is time to go to sleep.
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    Avoid using the bedroom for activities other than sleep or sex.[11] Many people have a television in their bedroom, or use their laptop computers, their tablets, or their cellphones in the bedroom prior to falling asleep at night. This is one of the most counter-productive things you can do for your sleep, because the light from the screens (called "blue" light) changes the chemistry in your brain and causes you to be more awake and less likely to fall asleep.
    • Melatonin is the natural chemical produced in your brain that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is produced in larger quantities prior to falling asleep. The bright light from computer, television, or cellphone screens counters the effects of melatonin, as the brain's natural production of melatonin is related to the natural light or darkness of the surrounding environment (it is what causes us to feel sleepy when it is dark out).
    • It is advisable to diminish (or cut out altogether) screen time right before bed.
    • It is also advisable not to use these devices in the bedroom as psychologically you want your bedroom to be associated with sleep.
    • If you use your phone as your alarm to wake up, purchase an actual alarm clock so that you are not tempted to spend time on your phone when setting your alarm before bed.
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    Avoid mentally or emotionally engaging activities right before bed.[12] For instance, avoid having a difficult or frustrating conversation with anybody in person or over the phone or Internet. Also, resist the temptation to start anything that requires fired-up thinking processes, such as trying to solve a work problem at 11pm at night. Your best bet is to leave it until the morning.
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    Go to bed immediately when you're feeling drowsy and when you have the need to sleep.[13] Avoid forcing yourself to stay awake. Unfinished chores can be completed the next day after a refreshing night's sleep. Your body breaks away from the natural cycle when its sleepy state is overcome by other distractions, and it can become very difficult to fall asleep again.
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    Ensure that adequate amounts of darkness are present in your sleeping space. Any light source from the outside creates a distraction and can easily awaken you. Block out these light sources if they create a distraction when you are trying to fall asleep. Heavy curtaining and blankets will do the trick.
    • The same is true for external noise; do your best to muffle it and consider closing the window to prevent external noises from filtering in. Interestingly, "white noise" (such as the sound of a fan or sound machine) can help you fall asleep, because the ambient noise helps mask other sounds, such as car alarms or people moving about the house.[14]
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    Exercise regularly.[15] Exercise will help induce nightly sleep through giving your body a proper workout. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week and include one to three days of strength training.[16][17]
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    Avoid drinks and beverages high in sugar and caffeine.[18] Any foods high in sugar will increase your energy levels thus making it difficult to fall asleep naturally. Caffeine is also a stimulant that makes sleeping difficult. If you are thirsty, warm milk or plain drinking water is the best option for getting a good night's sleep.
    • Avoid having caffeine after mid-day. Make all drinks caffeine-free from this point until you awaken the next morning.
    • Remember that chocolate contains caffeine and sugar, so try to avoid eating it too close to bedtime.
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    Take a hot bath or warm shower before going to bed. A hot bath works wonders and is known to relax and soothe tired and aching muscles. A relaxed body is able to sleep better. Add soothing scents such as lavender, neroli, rose, frankincense or sandalwood essential oils to calm the mind.[19]
    • If you plan on washing your hair, allow sufficient time to for your hair to dry. If you have to wait half the night for your hair to dry, you'll add to your sleep deprivation.
    • Not everyone has or likes a bath. If you'd rather take a shower, don't hesitate; it still works by soothing you with warmth and the relaxing rhythm of the water falling over you. Choose lavender or similar scented shower gels that help to calm you.
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    Seek cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) remedies if you're still experiencing an inability to break from sleeping medication through practical modifications to your lifestyle. CBT can make a difference in how you view the utility of the pills and can help you to discover your own way of overcoming insomnia.[20]


  • Most sleeping medications are highly addictive. Many cannot sleep without them as the body becomes dependent on these narcotics in order to fall asleep.
  • Keep a sleep diary; this can help reassure you that you're on track.


  • Never quit any medications without a doctor's supervision.
  • Deal with the stress in your life. Stress impacts sleep and brings about insomnia. Improvements in managing stress will often result in sleep improvements too.[21]

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