Maybe you’re one of the estimated 1.5 million who suffer from sleep disorders, including insomnia; maybe you’re also among the 921,000 percent of us who rely on prescription medication in order to fall asleep. If so, we have a bit of bad news for you.
The unfortunate truth about sleeping pills? They don’t work as well as we wish they did. Sleep medications don’t deliver the same restorative benefits as natural sleep, and even though people who take them often swear by them, the research suggests that the drugs don’t tend to increase sleep quality beyond placebos. Currently, Walker says, the best available treatment method for combating chronic sleeplessness is not pharmacological at all; it’s psychological. The quality of sleep that you have when you’re on prescription drugs is not the same as normal, naturalistic sleep. They’re classified as “sedative hypnotics,” so the drugs actually just sedate you - and sedation is not sleep.
In recent years studies have begun to link chronic partial sleep deprivation to serious physical health consequences. Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and alters hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss. Researchers have shown that just one week of sleep deprivation altered subject's hormone levels and their capacity to metabolize carbohydrates.
So, we already know that losing those precious hours in the night is not good news. However, medication is not the answer. The list of side effects from prescription sleep drugs is long, with the most common being headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, muscle and joint pain. One popular sleep drug was even shown to cause people to sleepwalk into their kitchen, chowing down on a midnight snack - with no memory of it in the morning!
While a pill may be effective in zonking you out and forcing you to close your eyes, the sleep that you get from that pill is not sufficient nor natural. Sleep, in is an incredibly complex ballet of neurochemcial brilliance that results in numerous areas of the brain both switching on and switching off - and we don’t have any good pharmacological approach right now to replicate such a complex set of biological changes.
Because of all these nasty issues associated with prescription sleeping drugs, more and more we are are embracing alternatives - which is great news! To start with, getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for sleeping naturally. If you keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times, even if you only alter your sleep schedule by an hour or two.
Implementing a sleep ritual is another important part of ensuring you get a good night's sleep. No matter what your issues with sleep are, rest easy knowing that there are natural alternatives for whatever ails you!