Will sleeping pills really cure sleep deprivation? Recent studies will tell you that you should think twice before filling a prescription for sleeping pills. Not only do they fail to address the reasons for sleep deprivation, they are actually linked to increased risks of cancer and death.
Taking Sleeping Pills Can Put Your Life on the Line
A recent research revealed that patients who took hypnotics – or drugs for poor sleep – had not only an elevated chance of getting cancer, but also had a nearly four times higher risk of dying compared to those who did not take any sleep medication. This is true for people who had poor health and even those who took fewer than 18 pills within a year.
The study also determined pills linked to these risks, including:
- Benzodiazepines (like Temazepam)
- Non-benzodiazepines (like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata)
- Sedative antihistamines
Daniel Kripke, MD, in his e-book The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills (link), delves on the study findings and emphasizes the increased risk of dying and getting cancer. He states that a new study, including over 10,000 patients who took the drugs and over 20,000 patients who did not, revealed that patients who took the drugs experienced early deaths. Those who took higher doses – over 132 pills per year – obtained a 35 percent increased risk of cancer.
In addition to this, Kripke also mentions a study on sleep medications documented by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The findings suggest that these drugs, including zaleplon (Sonata), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and ramelteon (Rozerem) can cause cancer in animals. These drugs were shown to damage chromosomes, which is a chemical mechanism of cancer-causing medications.
Dr. Kripke notes a more pressing concern. Drug manufacturers do not publish these details in medical literature, possibly because they do not wish for these experiments to be understood.
The REAL Effects of Sleeping Pills
While people believe that they are able to sleep longer with sleeping pills, an analysis of studies financed by the National Institutes of Health says otherwise.
In the study, pills such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata only reduced the average time for sleep by just under 13 minutes, while raising total sleep time by just over 11 minutes. People’s impression of getting better sleep from these medications could be a sign of anterograde amnesia, which is a problem associated with forming memories. When people wake up from sleep after taking hypnotics, they may forget that they were unable to sleep.
However, sleeping pills can impair your function the succeeding day. There is a very huge difference between getting a restful night’s sleep and sleep induced by medication. Dr. Kripke explains that sleeping pills make your brain less active, and that depression does not disappear upon waking up.
Taking these may even cause a “hangover” involving feelings of confusion and sleepiness. In some cases, you may experience increased falls and automobile accidents. For instance, sleep drugs that contain Benadryl have a life of about 18 hours. By taking them every night, you become sedated for a large portion of the day.
Sleeping pills are also anti-cholinergics, which disrupt rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dreaming processes. Plus, these drugs raise risk of dementia in seniors.
Withdrawal symptoms can also be a possible problem with sleeping pills, which are known to be notoriously addictive. A number of drugs including Ambien may also become less effective when taken for longer than two weeks.
More specifically, there have been reports that Ambien causes cases of sleep eating, with bizarre foods such as buttered cigarettes, salt sandwiches, and raw bacon. But this isn’t the only strange side effect brought on by sleeping pills. Others include:
- Sleep-walking and sleep-driving
- Hallucinations, confusion, and disorientation
- Limited amnesia – events that took place within the day may be forgotten
Do You Suffer from Sleep Deprivation? Treat It with These Natural Ways
Dr. Joseph Mercola says that sleeping pills are not capable of addressing the underlying reasons of sleep problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy can treat insomnia better than medications.
Dr. Mercola says that there are several factors that affect sleep, and one of the most overlooked ones is the use of light – even those that come from televisions, iPads, and computers. These can emit a form of blue light that usually suppresses melatonin production, making you unable to sleep. Ideally, you should turn them off an hour before bedtime.
Dr. Mercola also states that in order to get a good night’s rest, you should condition not only yourself but also your entire room. One way to do so is to make sure that your room is pitch-black. Cover your windows with shades or drapes to completely block the light. Close your bedroom door and get rid of night-lights. If you need a source of light, install “low blue” bulbs, which emit an amber or red light that will not disrupt your melatonin production.
Dr. Mercola says that apart from light, temperature is also important. Keep your room temperature at or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius); hotter surroundings may cause uneasiness. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees F (15.5 to 20 degrees C). When you go to bed, your body’s temperature also drops to its lowest level, and adjusting your room temperature will help mimic your body temperature.
Dr. Mercola says that gadgets or devices that emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. To check your room’s EMF levels, you’ll need a gauss meter. You may find models online that cost between 50 to 200 dollars. Move alarm clocks and other gadgets at least three feet away from your head.
If you feel that there is an “emotional” reason as to why you cannot get a good night’s rest, you should address this problem. Dr. Mercola suggests using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
For other tips on how to get some sleep without resorting to drugs, read Dr. Mercola’s 33 Simple Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep.