New Dangers with Sleeping Pill USe

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I’ve struggled to get a good night of sleep for as long as I can remember. Even when I was young, I woke easily to the slightest noises. The situation worsened when I became a new mother, and then worsened still when I become chronically ill. Sleep became, for me, a most unreliable companion : never there when I needed her, and yet obsessively clingy when I was busy and didn’t have the time.

For years, my mother has urged me to take sleeping pills, as she herself has done in the past, but I found I didn’t like them. They always made me feel so groggy and lethargic the next morning that I questioned whether the extra sleep was worth it. I also knew that they didn’t address the underlying problem – the reason I couldn’t sleep in the first place. They just artificially knocked me out.

A new, 2018 reviewof sleep medication is now providing me with even more reasons to avoid them. It found that those who use sleep medication tend to struggle with « complex sleep behaviours », meaning they unknowingly engaged in dangerous activities while still asleep. For example, some users drove a car while still asleep, some cooked on a stove, others fell while sleep-walking, or nearly drowned, while others accidentally shot themselves with a gun. Most disturbingly, users did not remember these events when they awoke. It seems that increased grogginess with the use of sleep medication is more common and more severe than I once thought!

Because of the increased risk of injury and death with the use of sleep medication, the FDA will now be adding new, boxed warnings to their packaging, as well as a worded contraindication. People who have experienced « complex sleep behaviours » in the past will be told to avoid the drugs. But should anyone really be using them? In the report, it wasn’t just long-term users of sleeping pills who risked injury and death. Even occasional, or first-time users could injure themselves or cause serious harm to others when they took them.

According to Jerome Siegel, a sleep researcher at UCLA, it’s debatable that sleeping pills really help anyone anyway. A study released in 2007 found that sleeping pills increased sleep time by only 11 minutes per night. That’s not a lot of increased rest, considering the side effects that often go with their use, like dizziness, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and allergic reactions. People also don’t tend to take these drugs seriously, and regularly ingest them along with alcohol or other prescription drugs, which can cause serious negative interactions. Sleeping pills can also create dependency, where you can no longer fall asleep without them. Additionally, addiction centres warn that some users can suffer from withdrawal effects.

Instead of hoping for a quick fix with a pill, sleep experts recommend you improve your sleep hygiene first, well before resorting to drugs, if you use them at all. They suggest that you avoid drinking caffeinated and carbonated beverages late in the day, and remove distracting devices from your bedroom, like your cellphone or tablet. Try to exercise daily, but don’t do it late at night or it can keep you awake rather than make you more drowsy. Also, keep your bedroom cool and dark, to more closely mimic the natural night environment. I find that an evening bath also helps. Not only is the warm water relaxing, but as I leave the tub and my body temperature cools, I find I can drift off more easily.

If you’ve already done as much as you can and you still can’t sleep, consider taking natural products to induce sleep. Some people swear by melatonin, and natural valerian root is another good option. I personally find that shou wu vine (ye jiao teng) works best for me, relaxing me almost immediately and keeping me asleep all night. Others use our Coptis tincture at night to knock themselves out.

I know I’m not alone. According to the CDC, 4% of US adults, or 10 million people, take prescription medication to help them sleep, spending $2 billion a year to help them get adequate rest. It’s an epidemic. I wonder how long it will take for us to realize that we’re slowly killing ourselves with over-stimulation and excess stress. I wonder if it’s even possible for us to change. The immediacy of our environment is too pleasurable and addictive.

As an unusually sensitive sleeper, I consider myself a canary in the coal-mine of modern life. Just know that when the day should come that you too begin to struggle with sleeplessness, there are those, like me, who have paved the way before you.

About the Author: Rebecca Wong has a BA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo and has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She studied at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine under respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le, and graduated from the East West School of Planetary Herbology under Michael Tierra. She received training as a yoga teacher at The Branches in Kitchener/Waterloo, and therapeutic yoga teacher training from the School for Somatic Soulwork under Deniz Aydoslu. She now teaches yoga for anxiety, depression and burnout at Rebecca's Restful Yoga Studio in Toronto.

2 thoughts on “New Dangers with Sleeping Pill USe”

  1. thank you Rebecca….
    I totally agree,…..sleeping pills are not even a consideration.
    I started struggling with a good night sleep during menopause.
    My experience with menopause was actually bearable and
    manageable even thou I had a quite demanding job and family
    situation. Sleep was the big eye opener together with other
    life changing realization. Now, years later, tinnitus has made
    sleep once again a high commodity that I long for.
    Would you have any suggestions toward this particular
    late development? I also have hearing loss….
    All my life I have ONLY allowed alternative medicine to heal
    me….rarely subjecting myself to any medication, if only for
    a specific infection, isolated in that case.
    I value and appreciate all that you are accomplishing on. this
    website to illustrate what I believe to be the organic approach
    that will ultimately heal.
    On the issue of tinnitus….do you have any suggestions?
    thank you once again,

    1. According to Chinese medicine, tinnitus is a sign of weakened kidneys. In Chinese medicine, there are little sayings, such as “the liver opens to the eyes”. Well, it’s the kidneys which open to the ears, which means that most problems with our ears are related to the kidneys in some way.

      As the kidneys are a filtration organ, any weaknesses can often be resolved by cleansing them of any toxins or sludge. So, you can consider trying our Kidney Tea. This tea cleanses your kidneys of any stones or build-up so that they can function better. It contains three herbs – two which are known to dissolve stones and sludge in the kidneys. The third herb is a kidney-strengthener, which not only helps to push the “garbage” out more effectively, but also strengthens your kidneys so they are less likely to become congested and weakened in the first place. You may find that the tinnitus goes away after drinking this tea for just a few weeks.

      We also have a tincture called Shou Wu Plus, which nourishes the kidneys, rather than cleanses them. Since nourishing herbs can themselves be congesting, it’s best to cleanse your kidneys with the Kidney Tea first, and then begin to nourish your kidneys with the Shou Wu Plus tincture afterwards. It’s hard to say which may help your tinnitus most, but since both will improve your kidney functioning, you should see progress either way.

      High-pitched tinnitus is more likely to be caused by congestion and stagnation, while lower pitched tinnitus is caused by weakness. So, if your tinnitus is more high-pitched, I suspect that cleansing your kidneys with the Kidney Tea would be more helpful. If your tinnitus is lower pitched, then the Shou Wu Plus should help more. If the tinnitus is high-pitched, it’s also more likely to be caused by excess heat, so you should try to avoid foods known to be too heating to the body, such as spicy foods, ginger, cinnamon, deep-fried foods, and roasted nuts.

      Of course, the liver may also be involved, since the liver and kidneys are both filtration organs. If your kidneys are weak, then your liver can also weaken as it struggles to perform more of the filtration duties on its own. So, you can also consider doing some liver and gallbladder cleansing at some point. Since almost everyone has some level of congestion in their liver, it can only be helpful for your overall health. If you would like to do a flush, then we recommend using our Liver/Gallbladder Flush 4-Pack of tinctures prior to your flush. These tinctures help to soften congested bile and crush gallstones into smaller pieces so that everything can be released more easily during your flush. Other customers of ours have told us that their flushes are definitely more productive when they use them.

      I hope this was helpful, Maria, and you get some much-needed sleep soon! 🙂

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