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The High Risks of Prescription Sleep Medication

The High Risks of Prescription Sleep Medication

The reality of insomnia is a long, long way from being as romantic as it was in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle.” With roughly 60 million Americans struggling with sleeping difficulties every year, scientists often wish we knew more about chronic sleeplessness, how it works, why it affects women more than men and particularly people over age 65. What we do know, however, is that prescription drugs aren’t the only—or the best—solution to the problem, for a number of reasons.

Symptoms of Insomnia

A disorder that makes it hard enough to fall asleep, insomnia also ensures it’s difficult to stay asleep, or it causes you to awake early and be unable to go back to sleep. The amount of sleep we need varies depending on your age, state of health and type of daily activities, but most adults need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours a night, according to this report from the National Sleep Foundation.

If you struggle with any of the following as a result of sleeping difficulties, you could be a classic insomniac:

  • Problems falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Not feeling rested after the night's sleep
  • Fatigue or drowsiness during the daytime
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

Most of these symptoms of insomnia can spill over into your daily life, leaving you with low energy levels, unstable moods, difficulties performing at work and overall reduced quality of life.

Complications Caused by Sleeplessness

While we hear and read a lot about insomnia, information is less readily available about the long-term effects and complications of sleeping difficulties. From reduced alertness and impaired memory, through relationship stress and a higher risk of traffic accidents, ongoing sleep deprivation can also result in elevated blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and reduced interest in sex, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Using Prescription Sleep Medication

Those who remember the 1967 film “Valley of the Dolls” will recall the role played by prescription sleep medication in the plot. Sadly, we didn’t leave the prescription drug epidemic behind in the 1960s, it’s alive and well in the 21st century.

Ok, enough popular culture references—the truth is that while there’s a huge range of drugs available for treating symptoms of insomnia, few are without the potential to cause harm. If your doctor suggests drugs contain any of the following ingredients, it’s a good idea to request a second opinion:

Sleep aids work by suppressing the activity of your nervous system. These drugs might make you sleep, but the risks inherent in them include developing tolerance and/or dependence, digestive problems, depressed respiratory function that can worsen sleep apnea causing death during sleep, increased likelihood of falling, and a higher chance of developing cancer. The most common side effects are headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, muscle and joint pain. One popular sleep drug was even shown to cause people to sleepwalk into their kitchen, consuming thousands of calories with no memory of it in the morning!

Natural Ways to Find Relief

Fortunately, we aren’t doomed to having to take prescription drugs to find relief from sleeping difficulties.

Non-pharmaceutical approaches you can try include avoiding caffeine for 4 hours before bed, along with skipping alcohol, a large meal less than 2 hours prior to retiring, or energetic exercise that releases endorphins.

Forego that delicious afternoon nap if it makes it harder for you to sleep at night. Make your bedroom quiet, cool and dark and put clocks away so you can’t keep looking at them while lying awake. Try to develop some relaxation habits such as meditation, yoga or reading before bed.

Combine these efforts with natural sleeping solutions like our Sleep Aid remedy, which contains a proprietary blend of biotherapies specifically formulated to affect those areas of the brain and body responsible for producing a restful slumber.

A study conducted at MD Mercy Hospital in Baltimore suggests cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a good way to develop healthier sleep habits. It can be hard work, but exceptionally rewarding.

The Results of Sleeplessness

Chronic sleep loss can speed up the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions, such as:

  • type 2 diabetes,
  • high blood pressure,
  • obesity, and
  • memory loss.

Researchers have shown evidence that just one week of sleep deprivation even altered a subject’s hormone levels and their capacity to metabolize carbohydrates.

During these times, natural sleeping solutions and non-pharmaceutical anxiety relief supplements can help take the edge off and prevent your insomnia from developing into a full-blown episode.

For more information on ways to treat sleeping difficulties naturally, email Dr. Garber.

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