There is an advertising-fueled medicine myth in America that a little pill can cure you. Sleeping pills are one of the more widely used meds prescribed to approximately 60 million people in the United States. However, these began coming under scrutiny when a British Medical Journal Online
article in Maytriggered sleepless nights after reporting the association with some common sleeping pills to a four-fold increased risk of death—even for those taking small doses. Nonetheless, the Chicago Tribune
reported this week: "Can a safer Ambien make billions? Merck aims to find out
However, not all physicians agreed with the report. Carl W. Bazil, M.D., Ph.D., who holds dual degrees in medicine and pharmacology, is a professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was one who questioned the study. He said: “There is an association there, but that does not prove that the pills themselves cause the problem. There may be other related contributing factors.” Prescription sleeping pills tied to increased risk/CBS News Video.
Dr. Bazil said: “It did not prove any cause to the problems seen, only an association. For example, the increased risks seen with sleeping medication may actually be due to the insomnia that led to the prescription in the first place. If that is true, failing to treat the insomnia may actually lead to even worse outcomes.”
Even losing an hour or two of sleep can be problematic
Sleep is so important that even losing an hour or two a night can interfere with a person’s judgment. With interrupted sleep, what can eventually happen is “an involuntary pattern of poor relaxation and sleep interference with associated depression and poor functioning levels,” added Dr. Bazil. He says that the sleepless cycle can be broken by medication, but believes that “behavioral techniques such as meditation are also very helpful.”
What does he suggest?
Dr. Bazil suggests that you talk with your doctor about stimulating over-the-counter medication you might be taking. And for people with insomnia: “It is sometimes helpful to place a paper and pen by the bedside,” said Bazil. “If you find yourself worrying about completing or remembering a task the next day, write it down and let it go.”
General tips from Dr. Bazil
Before trying medication, consider the following suggestions:
- Go to sleep at about the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning.
- Try not to nap after 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
- If you are not sleepy, instead of tossing and turning, get up and try quiet, relaxing activities until you feel sleepy, then return to bed.
- Perform relaxing activities in the hour before bedtime—try meditation.
- Avoid doing stimulating, frustrating or anxiety provoking activities in bed or in the bedroom such as watching television, studying, or balancing the checkbook
- Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is good for both sleep and overall health but it should be completed at least five hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine after noontime. This includes coffee, tea, soda or other caffeinated beverages, as well as chocolate late in the day.
- Stop smoking an hour or two before bedtime.
- Limit alcohol, especially before bedtime. Sleeping pills and the nation of pill poppers, young and old (Providence Journal)
In addition to Dr. Bazil’s nine tips, here are three more thoughts for a heavenly sleep:
1. Create a space with no clutter and simple harmony using feng shui principles. This from Regina Leeds: Bedroom as Sanctuary: The Ultimate Valentine.
2. Try our Grandmother’s Rule: Never let the sun set on your anger. It will do wonders to free you from anxiety and, for couples, forgiveness boosts intimacy. From Stephanie Sarkis PhD -- 25 Quotes on Letting Go.
3. When your head hits the pillow, express gratitude for the day and your comfortable bed: 4 Steps to Gratitude in Happy Times or Sad Ones.
Then consider the advice of the all-natural movement—all cotton sheets make for a more restful sleep.
Have you read these columns?
Copyright 2012 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved