Sleepless in Ohio

The use of sleeping pills has been a trending topic this week due to the release of a new study linking their use to attention-grabbing side effects.

“Everything you put in your mouth can have a down side,” writes Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Chief Medical Editor for NBC News, reporting on the study which indicates sleeping pills might be doing more harm than good.

A report aired on NBC’s Today Tuesday shared the highlights of the research pointing to an increased risk of mortality for those taking sleep aids on a regular basis.  The study doesn’t establish a causal link, but points to a number of associated factors.  Eighteen out of 24 studies looking at similar dynamics have come to the same conclusion.

“We’ve become a pill popping society,” Snyderman says at the end of the Today Show segment.  She writes that there are several reasons for our society being overmedicated, one being a sharp rise in self-medicating.

In the latest issue of Healthbeat, published by Harvard Medical School, Suzanne Salamon, M.D., also writes about some of the issues surrounding sleeping medications.  “As a geriatrician, I treat older patients, and sleeping pills, in general, are problematic for older people. They lead to grogginess the next day and may contribute to cognitive problems, poor balance, and falls.”

Salamon suggests that there are other ways to curb sleeping problems, including behavioral strategies.

I have used prayer/meditation successfully to find relief.  Over a period of a couple years I suffered with insomnia. I just could not “turn off” at bedtime and would be awake for hours.  It was a particularly busy time in my life. Eventually, I figured out that prayer was a great way to find a sense of peace.

My prayers focused on a deepening sense of heavenly protection allowing me to relax. I also gained more control over what I was thinking about as I prayed.  There was less fixating on my troubles and personal agenda, more attention directed to an altruistic pattern of thought.  This had a comforting influence. Over a period of time, sleep came more natural and was more satisfying.  Getting to sleep has been easier ever since.

Another upshot was feeling more like me, more whole all day long. As Americans grapple with the stresses of day-to-day living, they will be looking for solutions to maintaining health without harmful side effects. Snyderman writes, “Use the sleeping aids sparingly.  If you are using them all the time, think about what you can change in your life so you don’t have to rely on medication.”

Good advice and something we shouldn’t lose sleep over.