Continuing with our discussion on Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia, “Between about 5 and 10% of people are regularly using something to help them sleep,” says Professor Leon Lack, head of the Sleep Research Laboratory at Flinders University. “About 5% use prescribed hypnotic medications, another 5-10% use over-the-counter prescriptions and an unknown percentage use alcohol.”
Interestingly, over- the-counter drugs (OTC) and prescription sleeping pills often make insomnia worse by interfering with the normal architecture of sleep and causing a type of hangover in the morning.
People taking prescription and OTC sleeping pills often get caught up in a vicious cycle. They take the drug, which does induce sleep but which disrupts the quality of sleep throughout the night. In the morning they wake up unrefreshed and groggy. In an attempt to ‘get going’, they typically drink large quantities of coffee. High levels of caffeine further disrupt the ability to fall asleep, leading to increased use of the sleeping aids and so on and so on.
In addition, sedative hypnotic drugs can be physically addictive, not just psychologically habit-forming. It is also possible to take a dangerous amount or fatal overdose of these medications. Hypnotics can suppress the breathing control centre of the brain, leading to breathing cessation. This effect is especially dangerous for the elderly. These drugs also cause drowsiness and reduced daytime alertness. If a person takes a hypnotic drug at the same time as the other drugs, such as antihistamines, narcotics, alcohol or antidepressants, the risk of these complications is much, much higher.
If you suffer with sleep issues there are many safe and effective alternatives, (discussed in the blogs relating to this topic) rather than drugs, that can offer great assistance. These techniques do warrant your investigation.
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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