Sleeping Pills: More Harm than Good?
If you are having trouble falling and staying asleep, you’re not alone: 70 million Americans are affected by some sort of sleep problem, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and 40 million of them have a chronic sleeping disorder. In fact, insomnia is among the five most common complaints that patients present to their doctors. But are sleeping pills the answer? Keep reading to find out why your sleeping pills might be doing more harm than good and what natural options are available for better sleep.
Every day, doctors write thousands of prescriptions for sleeping pills. But are all those pills really necessary? Regardless of the manufacturer, sleeping pills work not by promoting natural sleep, but by suppressing consciousness. Their use is invariably followed by disturbance of what is known as the “sleep architecture.” In some cases, this can be so prolonged that the use of sleeping pills can be detected in sleep patterns six months after use is discontinued.
When considering the use of sleep aids or sleeping pills, it’s important to look at the cause of the sleep disturbance.
Psychological Sleeping Disorders
Psychological disorders are commonly associated with sleep disturbance, but there is no evidence that sleeping pills promote recovery and it is far better to treat the underlying condition with the right medications and treatment. Depression, for example, has a characteristic sleep pattern (some even think depression is a primary sleep disorder) and antidepressants often reverse the sleep cycle back to normal. Doctors can follow the recovery in mood by the changes in sleep.
Insomnia falls into two categories: primary insomnia, due to a sleep disorder; and secondary insomnia, in which sleep disturbance arise from a physical or psychological condition. Most insomnia is due to a short-lived problem that will be resolved and normal sleep will return.
Sleep medicine now has a range of approaches to insomnia. Once the underlying disorder is diagnosed—for example, sporadic limb movement (twitching and jerking in sleep), bruxism (tooth grinding and jaw clenching), obstructive sleep apnea (obstructed breathing with heavy snoring) or sleep walking—it is easy to begin effective treatment.
Secondary or Chronic Sleep Problems
With secondary or chronic sleep problems, psychological methods are used. Patients keep a sleep diary for a week or two, change any behaviors or environmental factors that may be inhibiting proper sleep (such as no television or computers in the bedroom and making sure the room is kept at an optimal temperature) and see a psychologist.
When Should Sleeping Pills be Used?
Of course there are situations when the use of sleeping pills may be appropriate, such as after a traumatic psychological episode (a sudden death in the family, a violent crime) or severe disturbance due to medical conditions. However, this is short-lived and should not lead to prolonged use of sleeping pills.
Natural products have become increasingly popular in the consumer marketplace, and there have been several insomnia-related products that have become available for sleep assistance.
The substance 5 HTP is often included in natural sleep aids for its ability to produce serotonin within the body. Serotonin is known to create relaxed states within the body, allowing for an easier time falling asleep. 5 HTP substances are typically sold in a capsule form, making it easy to add to your evening routine.
The most popular herbal remedies for insomnia or sleeplessness include a flower called the Griffonia. The Griffonia grows in the regions of Central and West Africa and resembles the evergreen tree. This seed has demonstrated the ability to create both a calming state to induce sleep and the ability to regulate consistent sleep throughout the night.
Herbal tinctures are different from herbal remedies, as they are produced in liquid form. Herbal tinctures are created from soaking a chosen botanical in a solution that contains both alcohol and water. Some of the common herbs that you will find used in tinctures will be chamomile, Vogel Avena and the California Poppy.
Each of these natural remedies will help create a more relaxed body state and when combined with modified lifestyle behaviors, will help reduce the effects of insomnia.
Wait – Don’t Get a Prescription Just Yet
If you are considering taking sleeping pills, talk with your doctor or healthcare provider and determine if these natural methods can be tried before you turn to medicine for help.