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Over-the-Counter Sleep Meds are Not Effective

May 29, 2010 | 39,468 views
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over the counter medicineConsistently sleeping for fewer than six hours each night may cause an early death. However, too much sleep can also cause problems.

New research analyzed data from 16 separate studies. People who habitually slept for less than six hours a night were 12 percent more likely to experience premature death.

While people who consistently sleep more than nine hours a night can also be more likely to die early, the oversleeping may be an indicator of underlying ailments rather than a cause.

According to The Guardian:

“The study noted that previous research into lack of sleep had shown it was associated with ailments including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.”

However, reaching for a sleeping pill in order to get a good night's sleep is pointless.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has had data for 15 years which shows that over-the-counter sleep products such as Tylenol PM and Excedrin PM don't offer any significant benefit to patients.

It is currently unclear why the FDA took 15 years to evaluate the data.

According to CBC News:

“An analysis of the data suggests the combination products are statistically better than a placebo but not by much.”

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

One-third of U.S. adults say they get less sleep than they need to function at their best, and many sleep-deprived individuals, desperate for some uninterrupted shut-eye, are resorting to sleeping pills as a solution.

In 2008, Americans filled more than 56 million prescriptions for sleeping pills and spent more than $600 million on over-the-counter sleep aids.

You would be far better off putting your money toward authentic solutions to help you sleep, like installing black-out drapes in your bedroom, than on sleeping pills, as it’s now clear that they do next to nothing to help you sleep and may actually make it more difficult for you to get a good night’s rest naturally.

FDA Finally Gets Around to Evaluating 15-Year-Old Sleeping Pill Study

The latest news on the sleeping meds front comes from a study that should have come out more than a decade ago. The industry-sponsored study, which was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995, evaluated the effectiveness of over-the-counter sleep aids, such as Tylenol PM and Excedrin PM.

The drugs, which are a combination of acetaminophen (a painkiller) and diphenhydramine citrate (a sleep aid), were found to work only slightly better than a placebo -- a finding the FDA has now ruled insufficient.

Dr. Charles Ganley, director of the Office of Nonprescription Products at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA, said in a letter to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, reported by CBC News:

"FDA has reviewed the submission and concluded the study results do not demonstrate a contribution of both ingredients to the efficacy of the combination for OTC relief of occasional sleeplessness when associated with minor aches and pains."

There is no explanation for why this news is coming out so late, years after the products have been on the market, but really it is far from surprising.

In 2007, an analysis of sleeping pill studies financed by the National Institutes of Health found that sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata reduced the average time to go to sleep by just under 13 minutes compared with fake pills -- hardly a major improvement.

Yet, the participants believed they had slept longer, by up to one hour, when taking the pills. This may actually be a sign 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!

Sleeping pills, of course, do nothing to help the underlying reasons why you’re having trouble sleeping in the first place. This is likely why studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can treat insomnia better than drugs.

In one study, those who suffered from insomnia and received behavioral therapy not only spent less time awake at night but also spent more time in the deepest stages of sleep compared to those given drugs.

OTC Sleeping Pills May Increase Your Risk of Liver Failure

Many OTC sleep aids contain acetaminophen (Tylenol type products), especially if they advertise pain relief as well.

The NUMBER ONE cause of acute liver failure in the United States is taking too much acetaminophen, which is incredibly easy to do considering just how many over-the-counter and prescription products contain this drug.

So if you have a headache, cold or achy back that’s making it difficult for you to sleep, you may have already taken one or more acetaminophen-containing products to relieve your pain and other symptoms, and then take another dose to help you sleep, not realizing that compounding doses of acetaminophen can be extremely dangerous, even deadly.

It’s very easy to overdose on acetaminophen, and thereby cause serious liver damage or liver failure. This risk is important to be aware of, especially if you take Tylenol PM, Excedrin PM or other acetaminophen-containing sleep aids on a regular basis.

Sleeping Pills are Not a Safe Solution for Sleepless Nights

When you’re desperate for sleep, the idea of popping a pill and falling blissfully fast asleep is a tempting one, but resorting to sleep medications is risky business. There are serious, not to mention bizarre, risks involved.

For starters, these pills are 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. Some, such as Ambien, may also become less effective when taken for longer than two weeks, which means you may find yourself needing ever higher dosages.

Ambien may also make you want to eat while you’re asleep -- and I don’t mean 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. Ambien actually ranks among the top 10 drugs found in the bloodstreams of impaired drivers, according to some state toxicology labs.

Among the elderly, using sleeping pills may increase the risk of nighttime falls and injuries, and anyone who takes them may find they wake up feeling drowsy if the effects of the drug have not worn off yet.

Really, if you’re going to wake up feeling like you’re in a daze, and go through your day in a state of fatigue, what’s the point?

You’re far better of finding safe and natural solutions that will actually address the underlying causes of your sleepless nights instead of just cover up the resulting symptoms.

Getting Adequate Rest is Essential

The new issue of Sleep contains a poignant reminder of why getting enough sleep is so important. People who make a habit of sleeping less than six hours a night were 12 percent more likely to experience premature death.

Too much sleep -- more than nine hours a night -- also increased the risk of dying early, although likely because oversleeping is a sign that there could be some underlying health issues present.

This suggests that the ideal hours of sleep every night would be more than six and less than nine … but this is dependent on your age, activity and stress levels, health and other factors. There really is no magic number of hours that’s right for everyone, and you may require more or less sleep than someone of the same age, gender and activity level.

The important gauge to go by is how you feel. If you wake up feeling tired or feel you could fall asleep at 3 o’ clock in the afternoon, you’re probably not well-rested.

Studies suggest that healthy adults have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours each night. However, if you haven’t been sleeping well and have accumulated a sleep debt, you may still feel tired even if you’ve slept a full seven or eight hours one night. If you have a sleep debt, you may be especially tired at the times when your circadian rhythm naturally dips -- such as overnight or in the mid-afternoon.

The important point is to make sure you’re devoting enough time to high-quality sleep, as otherwise your health will inevitably suffer. Too little sleep impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory and immune system, your heart and metabolism, and much more.

So please always listen to your body. If you feel like climbing into bed at 9 p.m., don’t stay up later watching TV or surfing the Net. Your body needs its sleep.

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

If you are having trouble sleeping, please do not ignore the problem or simply wait for it to go away. Quality sleep just as important as your need for food, water, and pure air -- and there are very simple methods to help you get yours.

Please read my comprehensive sleep guide 33 Secret’s to a Good Night’s Sleep for my full set of recommendations, but to start, make certain you are exercising regularly.

A Stanford University Medical School study found that after 16 weeks in a moderate-intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall asleep about 15 minutes earlier and sleep about 45 minutes longer at night. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake.

Stress is another major reason why people have trouble sleeping, which is why I suggest you start to wind down from your day at least an hour before your bedtime (but preferably two or more).

You may want to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea, washing your face, using Meridian Tapping/Emotional Freedom Techniques (MTT/EFT) or reading a calming or spiritual book to help soothe your mind. Be sure your phone, email, and television are all off during this time.

Your sleeping environment is also important in your ability to rest, and yours should be comfortable and conducive to sleep. This includes keeping the temperature cool, adding in some white noise if you need it and making sure your room is pitch-black.

If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin. For this reason, I highly recommend adding room-darkening drapes to your bedroom, or if this is not possible wearing an eye mask to block out any stray light.

Again, by following my 33 Secrets for a Good Night’s Sleep, the majority of people will be able to fall asleep and stay asleep. However, for times when sleep is especially difficult, these eight natural remedies may also help and are far safer than sleeping pills of any kind.


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