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Sleep Drugs Are Wildly Popular Despite Barely Working

November 15, 2007 | 35,589 views
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Americans spend nearly $5 billion a year for sleep medications that are only marginally effective.

An analysis of sleeping pill studies financed by the National Institutes of Health found that newer sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata reduced the average time to go to sleep by just under 13 minutes compared with fake pills.

Meanwhile, people who took the sleeping pills increased their total sleep time by just over 11 minutes compared with those who took fake pills.

As for older sleeping medications like Halcion and Restoril, people who took the drugs fell asleep 10 minutes faster and slept 32 minutes longer than those taking a placebo.

Yet, the participants believed they had slept longer, about 52 extra minutes with the older drugs and 32 minutes with the newer drugs.

People may believe they sleep longer than they really do when they take sleeping pills because of a condition called anterograde amnesia, which causes trouble with forming memories. When people wake up after taking sleeping pills, they may, in fact, simply forget that they had been unable to sleep.

The pills, though questionable in their effectiveness, are extremely popular even though they can cost up to $4 per pill. They’ve also been linked to a number of serious, though relatively uncommon, side effects, such as sleepwalking, sleep-eating, and traveler’s amnesia.

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Sleeping pills are, indeed, wildly popular. In 2006, nearly 50 million prescriptions for these drugs were filled in the United States -- a 30 percent increase from 2005.

Is it worth nearly $5 billion (the amount Americans spend on sleeping pills) to sleep for 11 minutes longer a night? Apparently many Americans think so, although if you take these pills your mind can be so wiped out that you can’t even remember how long you slept.

There are even reports of people sleepwalking after taking sleeping pills who believe that they had had a good night’s sleep.

Folks, sleep is crucial to your health, but resorting to sleeping medications to fall asleep is risky business.

Although the drug companies would have you believe that taking a drug to sleep will have you drifting off to a peaceful world full of glowing butterflies and talking beavers, there are serious, not to mention bizarre, risks involved.

The sleep medication Ambien, for instance, is known to cause people to eat while they’re asleep. And they’re not just sneaking down to grab a piece of fruit. The sleep eating can include bizarre foods such as buttered cigarettes, salt sandwiches, and raw bacon.

It can also cause you to gain weight; one woman gained over 100 pounds while on Ambien -- and others have cut themselves while trying to chop up food in their sleep.

Sleeping pills, and again Ambien in particular, are also known to increase your risk of getting into a traffic accident while you’re driving. Ambien actually ranks among the top 10 drugs found in the bloodstreams of impaired drivers, according to some state toxicology labs.

Yet many of you have likely taken drugs for sleeping, believing that they’re safe and that they’ll have you waking up feeling refreshed. The drug companies spent $600 million in 2006 on advertising geared to get you to believe just that. Of course, the ads are misleading as these pills don’t give you a good night’s sleep, nor are they safe.

These pills are also notorious for being addictive, which means that once you want to stop taking them, you’ll likely suffer withdrawal symptoms that could be worse than your initial insomnia. Why put yourself through that when other safe natural options exist?

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep, Without Taking a Pill

I do understand that the driving force behind many people’s willingness to take sleeping pills has to do with the torment of not being able to sleep. Insomnia is mentally draining, even maddening, and it will wreak havoc on your health.

Fortunately, there are good options out there, so please don’t resort to taking a drug to sleep.

When you follow the advice in Take Control of Your Health your likelihood of insomnia will dramatically decline. Some of the most important tips for a restful night of slumber include:
It’s also important to tend to your emotional needs, as, ironically, many people have trouble sleeping simply because they’re worried about falling asleep. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an energy psychology tool that can help you to relieve this and other sleep-related emotional challenges.

Finally, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, please be sure to read my 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep. These tips are among the best out there to help you get the rest you need.

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