Insomnia sucks. Something as simple as sleep becomes elusive. You do everything you can to get some sleep, but nothing works. So you head over to your primary care physician and he prescribes you a sleeping pill. You take it one day and it seems to work. So you begin to pop a sleeping pill every night. One year later, it is part of your routine. You put your pajamas on, get some water, swallow your pill and drift off to sleep. However, there are some scary facts about sleeping pills you don't know.
1) They are not tested for long term use: When your doctor or physician writes that prescription for Ambien or Lunesta, his expectation is that you only take it as needed. As needed means taking it every once in a while- not every day or twice a day. Truth is that these sleeping pills haven't actually been tested for every day use. So who really knows the long term side effects of these seemingly harmless pills that you're popping each day? Pretty scary.
2) You might be overdosing yourself: Let's get sciencey (I know it's not a real word). Well, the half life of a substance, is the amount of time it takes for half the amount of that substance to be metabolized or eliminated from your body. With sleep medications, many of them remain in your system when you take your next dose. So for example, the half life of Ativan and Xanax is 12 hours. So it means it takes 12 hours for half the dose to be eliminated in your body. It means that if you take 1 Xanax at 7pm, by 7am the next morning, half of the dose is still swimming around in your system. So if you take another Xanax shortly after, you might have more of the dose than you need. When you take it day after day, you're layering the medication in your system.
3) Sleep medications can be more dangerous for women and the elderly: For some strange reason, these sleeping medications metabolize (get eliminated) slower at night, in women, and in the elderly. So as a woman, when you take sleep medications at night, it gets absorbed a lot slower than a man who took one during the day. Very few people actually take sleep medications during the day, so think about it. In the elderly there is also a greater risk for slip and falls due to the impaired next day coordination these sleeping pills could cause.
4) There is a risk of dependency: Physicians prescribe sleep medications as needed for a reason. When these pills are used over a long period of time, your body actually begins to depend on it. This means after a while, you don't get great quality sleep if you haven't taken your sleeping pill that night.
5) Sleeping pills don't cure insomnia: What's the point of taking sleeping pills night after night if your insomnia is not going to go away? Many people take medication with the hope that the root cause of their sleep disorder will be solved. But in the case os insomnia medication, your insomnia doesn't get cured. What you're doing is essentially putting a small bandage on a big problem.
So before you rush to your physician for a magic pill, remember that sleeping pills aren't necessarily a cure all.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides counseling and therapy to women with anxiety, I also provide insomnia treatment in Murrieta for women with insomnia using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Find out more about CBT-I in this other blog post- Could CBT for Insomnia be the solution to your insomnia woes?
70-80 percent of individuals who undergo CBT-I treatment for insomnia experience vast improvement in their sleep. For women within California who are too far away from the Murrieta, Temecula or Menifee areas, I provide CBT for insomnia treatment online. CBT-I is a 5 to 8 week treatment for people who struggle with insomnia. It's the first line insomnia treatment in the USA and it is highly recommended by sleep researchers and experts.
Click here to schedule your free 15 minute consultation call so that insomnia can be a thing of the past. You can also call me at 951-905-3181 to find out how CBT for insomnia can help you sleep again in as little as 5 sessions.
Remember, if you are within California, but you are not in the Murrieta/Temecula area, I also provide CBT for insomnia treatment online.