Struggling to sleep can cause many health issues, including making people more lethargic and decreasing their productivity the next day. That can make working from home or keeping a routine very difficult, so Erie News Now reached out to a pharmacist for remedies to help get a better night's sleep.

Dr. Tim Zurn, who's the Outpatient Pharmacy Director with LECOM Health's Outpatient Pharmacy, said first try lifestyle changes. As pointed out in Thursday's Healthy Living segment, keeping routine with healthy habits can be a tremendous help when it's time to go to bed. 

Eat healthier, stay hydrated and exercise, but avoid doing those things right before bed. “It’s not a good idea to exercise within a couple few hours of bedtime or else that will probably keep your metabolism up and keep you from getting a good night’s sleep,” Dr. Zurn said.

If a lifestyle change doesn't help, there are over-the-counter remedies to try. However, Dr. Zurn said it's important to talk to a pharmacist before trying them, "Because a lot of times what’s on the shelf is not necessarily safe for everyone." A pharmacist can ensure the over-the-counter remedy won't have negative side effects or reactions with any other medications a person could be taking.

He suggests trying one of three over-the-counter remedies first: melatonin, valerian or sedating antihistamines. “Melatonin is something that helps with the sleep wake cycle," Dr. Zurn said, "it’s very safe, minimal drug interactions, that’s usually where I would start with folks on recommending a product.”

Valerian is a natural, plant-based product meant to help people sleep easier. It can take up to two weeks for a person to feel the effects and the dosage isn't always clear, so it's important to consult a pharmacist before trying it.

Antihistamines can cause severe drowsiness and are not recommended for senior citizens. “They want to make sure they take those after they’re home and probably about an hour before they go to bed, so that they’re not out driving around or doing anything that requires any mental awareness,” Dr. Zurn said.

If over-the-counter remedies don't work, people should consult their physician. The physician can help figure out what the cause of restlessness is and that will determine the most beneficial treatment. “Cause you want to target the root of the problem, so they may need to address the anxiety which will take care of the insomnia," he said. 

Prescriptions are stronger and a pharmacist should still be consulted before taking it to ensure the new medication won't negatively react with other medications a person is already taking. The most common Z-Class medications prescribed are Sonata, Ambien and Lunesta

Each can cause sleep-walking, driving or even cooking and the person taking those medications should be aware of those risks.