Understanding the Dark Side of Sleeping PillsAnna Ciulla
If you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, like millions do, you may be willing to do anything to end the feeling of chronic sleep deprivation. The simplest solution for many insomniacs is to pop a sleeping pill like Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta—all of which belong to a class of medications known as “sedative hypnotics.”
Emerging research shows that you just may be putting your life on the line by habitually taking sleeping pills. Studies of more than ten thousand people who regularly ingested sleeping pills not only indicated a 35 percent higher risk for certain cancers, but also a quadrupled likelihood of accidental death compared to those who did not use sleeping pills. And those who ingested higher doses—as measured by 132 pills per year—were at a five times greater risk of death than those who took none. Research also indicated that as many as 500,000 deaths each year are attributable to sleeping pills.
Sleeping pills promise big results but don’t actually deliver. For example, studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that sleeping pills only reduced the amount of time it took to get to sleep by 13 minutes when compared to placebos and increased the amount of total sleep time by 11 minutes—even though participants in the studies believed they had slept longer. This may be caused by a phenomenon called anterograde amnesia, or the inability to form memories.
Sleeping pills also leave users with impaired—or at the very least suboptimal—functioning on the day following dosage. Unlike the feeling of alertness and refreshment that one gets from a good night’s sleep, sleeping pills frequently cause grogginess and depression, impairing memory and overall performance. These negative side effects are due to their prevention of the deeper stages of non-REM sleep. This troubling condition is known as a “sleeping pill hangover” and can increase not only confusion and drowsiness, but also make one more susceptible to automobile accidents and falls.
Natural sleep enhances the body’s antioxidant mechanisms that reduce free–radical damage occurring in the body, while sleeping pills interfere with normal sleep patterns, robbing the body of sleep’s natural healing effects and medicinal qualities. Sleeping pills are notoriously addictive and have a rebound effect once stopped, making the withdrawal symptoms much worse than the initial insomnia for which they were taken. Serious side effects from these medications include:
- Sleep walking and/or driving
- Disorientation and confusion
- Impaired coordination
- Suicidal ideation (SI)
Another troubling aspect of sleeping pills is that they are less effective the longer they are taken, and should never be taken longer than two weeks. More importantly, they do not treat the underlying cause of insomnia. One of the most important steps in addressing insomnia is to identify the underlying cause. Common causes include: stress, depression or anxiety, caffeine, excessive time spent on social media, or even other medications that may be interfering with natural sleep patterns.
There are many natural remedies available to treat insomnia including melatonin, L-theanine, 5-HTP, and valerian root. These remedies can be found in natural health food stores and even at your local drugstore. Other remedies that can help ensure a restful night sleep are:
- Sleeping in a completely dark environment – make sure you have black out shades on your windows and that there is no blue light being emitted from alarm clocks, cell phones, or radios. Even the slightest amount of light can significantly disrupt your sleep.
- Temperature regulation – our body’s internal temperature naturally drops when sleeping; therefore, scientists believe a cool environment is essential to enjoying optimal sleep. The ideal room temperature for optimal sleep conditions is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use prayer, meditation, and soft music – these three natural remedies help address any emotional issues that are preventing you from getting restful sleep.
- Eliminate electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) in the bedroom – EMF’s disrupt the production of serotonin and melatonin in the body, both of which are vital in achieving optimal sleep. To prevent this from occurring, move alarm clocks as well as other electrical devices as far away from the bed a possible. EMF’s can be checked by purchasing a gauss meter online for as little as $50.