Opinions in Healthcare

Sleeping Soundly: A Pharmacists Guide to Sleep Disorders

Insomnia, a common sleep disorder, has various causes, including stress, poor sleep habits, medical conditions, medications, and age-related changes in sleep patterns. Understanding these causes is crucial for tailoring effective treatments and improving sleep quality. Pharmacists play a pivotal role in promoting better sleep health for their patients. They are well-positioned to offer valuable guidance and support, educating patients about medications that may impact sleep, providing recommendations for alternatives or dosage adjustments, and identifying potential drug interactions. Additionally, they counsel on proper sleep hygiene, help create conducive sleep environments and collaborate with healthcare providers to adjust medication regimens. By offering personalized advice, monitoring side effects, and encouraging open communication, pharmacists significantly contribute to their patients’ overall sleep well-being, ensuring they get the restorative rest they need for optimal health.

Community Pharmacies: Your Friendly Neighborhood Health Heroes!

Community pharmacies offer a convenient and accessible source of healthcare services, particularly for individuals who may not regularly interact with general practitioners or traditional healthcare providers. As such, they can play a vital role in providing initial assistance to the community for sleep-related disorders. While specialized sleep clinics exist, they may not be readily available in all areas, particularly in rural and remote regions. These specialized clinics primarily focus on respiratory sleep disorders and are often considered tertiary centers that address more advanced or severe sleep issues. Community pharmacists are well-positioned to initiate discussions, offer advice on medications, and provide ongoing support for a range of health concerns, similar to interventions for chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. Notably, there are significant parallels between managing these chronic health conditions and addressing sleep disorders, including the importance of early intervention, community-level care, and continuous support. This suggests that pharmacists in the community setting could play a significant role in effectively reducing the impact of sleep disorders on individuals’ well-being1.

Melatonin Magic: Is the Sleep Aid Worth the Hype​​?

Exogenous melatonin, available in pills both over-the-counter and by prescription, is a popular sleep aid. It’s famous for its role in regulating our internal body clocks and promoting better sleep. Melatonin is known to help improve total sleep time, combat jet lag fatigue, and reset our disrupted sleep schedules, making it a valuable ally for shift workers and travelers. Intriguingly, melatonin doesn’t just aid sleep; it can also influence our body temperature and induce sleepiness when taken during the day.

Despite the benefits of melatonin and some patients resorting to the common OTC product as a “cure” for their sleeping disorders, it can potentially cause harm if not used correctly.

While melatonin is generally safe when used as directed, overuse can disrupt the body’s natural melatonin production, potentially leading to long-term sleep problems. It can also interact with medications and may cause side effects like dizziness and daytime drowsiness. Consulting a healthcare professional before use, especially for those with medical conditions, is advisable to ensure safe and effective use.

Melatonin may work for some, but not others. There are several alternatives to melatonin for improving sleep quality. One popular option is cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a structured program that helps individuals identify and change behaviors and thought patterns that contribute to sleep problems. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can also be effective in calming the mind and promoting sleep. Herbal remedies like Valerian Root and Chamomile have been used for centuries to aid in sleep, though their efficacy varies from person to person. For those seeking non-prescription options, antihistamines like Diphenhydramine or Doxylamine can be found in many over-the-counter sleep aids, but they should be used with caution due to potential side effects. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable alternative for individual sleep needs and concerns.

Slumber Success: Snooze Strategies for a Better Night’s Sleep

  1. Establish a Consistent Routine: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
  2. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual: Engage in calming activities before bedtime, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation exercises to signal your body that it’s time to wind down.
  3. Limit Screen Time: Avoid electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light emitted can interfere with melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep.
  4. Optimize Your Sleep Environment: Make your bedroom comfortable and conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains and earplugs if necessary.
  5. Watch Your Diet: Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. These can disrupt your sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep.
  6. Get Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can promote better sleep but try to finish exercise at least a few hours before bedtime.
  7. Manage Stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to calm your mind and reduce anxiety that may be contributing to insomnia.
  8. Limit Naps: While short power naps can be refreshing, long or irregular daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you need to nap, aim for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Be Mindful of Medications: Consult with your healthcare provider about any medications you’re taking, as some can disrupt sleep. They may adjust your medication regimen if necessary.
  10. Seek Professional Help: If your insomnia persists despite trying these tips, consider consulting a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist. They can help identify any underlying causes and recommend appropriate treatments or therapies.

Remember that improving sleep may take time, so be patient and persistent in implementing these tips. Customizing your approach based on your individual needs and preferences is essential for achieving better sleep health!


  1. Mohamad Noor Z, Smith AJ, Smith SS, Nissen LM. A study protocol: a community pharmacy-based intervention for improving the management of sleep disorders in the community settings. BMC Health Services Research. 2014;14(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-14-74

Written By:

Christie Powell, Pharm.D. Candidate Class of 2026

Zoha Khalid, Pharm.D. Candidate Class of 2024