If you are reading this article because you want to die, call the Suicide Hotline immediately. If you are reading this article because someone has taken too many sleeping pills, call 911 or poison control immediately.
We live in a drug culture. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are taken for practically every minor symptom we experience, including our moods and, of course, insomnia. Herbal remedies are also very popular, particularly for sleep.
While these options may be tempting, they do not treat the root of the problem. So, you will probably find yourself back where you started if you take sleeping pills and then stop using sleeping aids. And because sleeping pills can affect your sleep style, they may actually exacerbate your sleep problem.
In addition, they can impair your daytime functioning. Regular use of sedative-hypnotics often leads to dependency. Although sleep aids can be helpful on a short-term basis when you are experiencing excessive stress, they are not a good long-term solution.
Fortunately, you can learn drug-free ways to sleep better at night without putting your life and the well-being of your family in jeopardy. Before we tell you how to deal with insomnia without sleeping pills, we first want to tell you the risks involved with sleep medications.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Researchers Say About Sleeping Pills
- 2 Can an Overdose of Sleeping Pills Kill You?
- 3 Side Effects of Sleeping Pills
- 4 In Summary
What Researchers Say About Sleeping Pills
Insomnia: What is it?
Insomnia is the inability to go to sleep or the inability to remain asleep after you go to sleep. Insomnia can be caused by a variety of factors including poor sleep hygiene, psychological stress, pain, and an uncomfortable sleep environment. Sleep deprivation is a serious condition that increases the risk of developing physical and mental health problems, including the risk of attempting suicide and being in or causing a serious accident.
Treating yourself with sleeping pills allows you to get some much-needed rest but it does little or nothing to reduce the risks associated with insomnia. The risks from taking sleeping pills are similar, and in some cases, worse, than the risk associated with insomnia.
What Researchers Say About Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are dangerous! If you have trouble sleeping, sleeping pills are not the answer. Unfortunately, some people are so desperate that they resort to taking any of the long list of pharmaceuticals in an effort to help them to get a good night’s sleep.
Regrettably, the available pills come with a long list of associated dangers, including addiction, increased the risk of cancer, and increased death from all causes. Sleeping pills should only be used for short-term urgent needs. There are many ways to improve the quality of your sleep that do not increase your risk of death.
The most troubling part of the research is that it is not just daily users who are at risk, but those who use them less than twice a month are also at risk. It can take a while for the side effects to surface but some effects, including dangerous ones like allergic reactions and problems associated with the presence of lung diseases or intoxication. Even those who don’t immediately notice harmful effects may be harming their wellbeing through the use of sleeping pills.
Most researchers have found that the more sleeping pills people take, the greater their risk of death from all causes. Even people who take one to eighteen sleeping pills annually are three and a half times more likely to die within a two-and-a-half-year follow-up period.
If you take nineteen to a hundred and thirty-two pills a year, you are almost four and a half times (4.43) more likely to die. If you take more than one hundred and thirty-three pills a year, you are about five-and-a-half times more likely to die.
According to studies, the above outcomes do not differ whether you are using earlier versions of sleeping pills or newer ones, which are marketed as being shorter acting and safer. Studies have also found an increased risk for all major cancers.
The increased risk of developing cancer is about 20% among any users who take nineteen to a hundred and thirty pills annually. The risk increases substantially, to approximately 35% for users who take more than a hundred and thirty-two sleeping pills a year. You’re in this category if you take a sleeping pill every ten days or so.
This research reveals an unsettling association between sleeping pills, cancer, and death. This is very significant because about 10% of the American adult population takes sleeping pills. The research ruled out many other possible causes for the results.
When the increased risk of death is considered, the effect of sleeping pills is like exchanging your body for a much older person’s body as illustrated in the following chart from the British Medical Journal.
Notice that the death rate of people ages 18 – 55 who took sleeping pills was higher than the death rate of people ages 55 – 65 who didn’t take sleeping pills. Patients between the ages of 50 – 65 who took sleeping pills experience an almost identical death rate as people over age 75 who do not take sleeping pills.
Can an Overdose of Sleeping Pills Kill You?
Yes, a sleeping pill overdose can kill you.
Most suicide attempts do not result in death. In 2017, 1,400,000 suicide attempts were made and 47,173 tore their families in pieces when they died by suicide.
Women who attempt suicide often turn to pills, but they are more likely to end up with more problems than they are to end up dead. Overdoses can cause brain injury and other serious side affects that will make whatever situations had them in so much pain worse. Some men also attempt suicide with pills.
An overdose of sleeping medication does not always lead to death. Most sleeping medications that are strong enough to be used by suicidal people are no longer in the market.
According to manufacturers, the sleeping pills that are currently in the market contain milder chemicals that are not potentially lethal compared to sleeping medications that were manufactured some years back.
They claim that the current generation of sleeping pills are purposefully and chemically made to be safer. The main objective of the manufacturers is to make the sleeping medication less potent, so as to ensure that an overdose of sleeping pills cease to be an effective method of committing suicide.
The newer medications might be less potent, but that does not mean that they are safe. Regardless of the milder chemical contents, these pills are still a threat to your life and an even larger threat to your health, even when you take them as prescribed.
Side Effects of Sleeping Pills
80% of people who take sleeping pills experience side effects. Since you won’t know if you’ll experience side effects, or which side effects you’ll experience until you try the process basically makes you a Guinea pig.
While not sleeping is not an option, there are many natural and alternative treatments that are effective without putting you at risk for dangerous side effects.
An allergic reaction to sleeping pills can be life-threatening. If you suffer from asthma, emphysema, COPD, or other chronic lung problems, sleeping pills can put you in immediate danger by interfering with your ability to breathe.
If you don’t overdose, you are likely to experience side effects long before you die from the long-term side effects of sleeping pills, including the following:
Short-Term Side Effects Include:
Since you don’t know which side effects you’ll experience, you’re at risk for all of them until after you test them on yourself.
|Common Side Effects||Side Effects that are not as Common|
|Drowsiness, daytime sleepiness
Difficulties with balance (increased risk of falls)
Nightmares or weird dreams
Burning or tingling in extremities
Foggy brain (inability to think quickly)
Increased risk of accidents
Inability to concentrate
|Abnormal depression and thoughts
Increase or decrease in appetite
Although it’s not yet reported in the research, being on social media while asleep is coming.
Over the Long-Term:
Taking sleeping pills is associated with “substantially elevated hazards of dying compared to those prescribed no hypnotics.” Although the large study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that the effect is dose-dependent, which means the more sleeping pills you take, the more your risk of death increases, that doesn’t mean that taking just a couple of sleeping pills a month means you aren’t at risk. The same study found that the risk of death increased when patients took just 18 sleeping pills during a year.
The BMJ study followed 10,529 patients who were prescribed sleeping pills and compared their health for a period of two and a half years to that of a larger group of patients (24,793) who weren’t prescribed sleeping pills. The data was controlled for a variety of factors including BMI, marital status, age, gender, prior cancer, alcohol use, smoking, and ethnicity to rule those factors out as the cause of differences in cancer rates and mortality.
Patients who take hypnotic sleeping pills (like the brands listed below) experienced a four times greater risk of death and a more than 35% increase in cancer compared to patients who were not prescribed hypnotic sleeping pills.
Hypnotic Sleeping Pills:
- Ambien (zolpidem)
- Edluar (zolpidem)
- Intermezzo (zolpidem)
- Sonata (zaleplon)
- Zolpimist (zolpidem)
- Belsomra (suvorexant)
- Butisol (butabarbital)
- Doral (quazepam– benzodiazepine hypnotic)
- Estazolam (benzodiazepine –sedative-hypnotic
- Flurazepam (Flurazepam hydrochloride– benzodiazepine hypnotic)
- Halcion (triazolam–benzodiazepine)
- Hetlioz (tasimelteon—hypnotic for blind people with a sleep/wake disorder)
- Lunesta (eszopiclone– nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic)
- Normison (temazepam—benzodiazephine Restoril)
- Restoril (temazepam—benzodiazephine Restoril)
- Rozerem (ramelteon– melatonin agonist )
- Seconal (secobarbital– sedative-hypnotic)
- Nembutal (pentobarbital—sedative-hypnotic)
- Valium (diazepam—hypnotic)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide-sedative-hypnotic)
- Tranzene (clorazepate—sedative-hypnotic)
- Ativan (lorazepam—sedative-hypnotic)
- Xanas (alprazolam—sedative-hypnotic)
- Silenor (doxepin—the other hypnotic)
In addition to a significantly increased risk of death and cancer across two and a half years, long-term sleeping pill use can cause:
- Rebound Insomnia – the inability to sleep when sleeping pills are stopped
- Addiction – you crave the pills
- Reliance – the pills lose their effectiveness due to your bodybuilding immunity which means you have to increase the dose
- Psychological dependence
- Stomach cramps or Nausea
The abovementioned side effects are among the many experiences you could experience if you use sleeping pills.
If you find your body craving sleeping pills, then it is a sign that you may be addicted. Consult your physician for assistance beating the addiction.
In most cases, abuse of sleep medication can induce serious memory loss. This may be followed by slurred speech, a lack of coordination, and an inability to focus. All these combined are a recipe for disaster. You might even lose your job because of sleeping pills.
So, What Can You Do to Avoid Sleeping Pills?
There are many strategies that can help you sleep other than pills including:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Stress Management
- Positive sleep affirmations
- Mental health therapy
Good sleep hygiene suggestions include:
- Reserving the bed and bedroom for sleeping and sex.
- Don’t watch TV in the bedroom
- Don’t read in bed
- Don’t surf the internet in bed
- Avoid all screen time for at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep
- Avoid vigorous exercise in the evening. Relaxing exercise like yoga, tai chi, and Pilates is fine in the evenings.
- Deep breathing
- Quiet conversation
- Warm therapeutic baths or showers
- Keep a regular schedule
- Eat breakfast when you wake up
- Don’t overeat, especially at night
- Get a houseplant
- Determine your bedtime using this formula
- The time you need to wake-up
- – the amount of time you need to fall asleep
- – the amount of time you need to sleep
- = Bedtime
If you need to wake up at 6 a.m. and you need 8 hours of sleep and take ½ hour to go to sleep, you need to go to bed 8 ½ hours before 6 a.m. which is 9:30 p.m.
- Don’t watch the evening news or other shows that can upset you
- If you can’t sleep, get up and do something quiet and relaxing until you feel sleepy
Get at least one houseplant to improve the air quality in your home, and go from there. The pros of having a houseplant are simply too good to pass up. Just make sure it is something that suits you and not an additional stressor.
If you share a bed with someone else, come up with an agreement to keep office work out of the sleep sanctuary. This is a revered space for both of you, and normally it just takes a heart-to-heart conversation to make sure that everyone is comfortable.
The food that you eat can affectedly influence the quality of sleep you get. Remember, food is not just food, it is information.
And the types of food that you eat, along with the nutrients they contain, automatically spur processes that determine what your body, health, and sleep will look like. The environment in your stomach can either make or break getting a good night’s sleep.
Here are some essential good sleep nutrients you must make sure you are getting on a regular basis: Vitamin B6, melatonin, omega 3S, Vitamin D, calcium, potassium, tryptophan, Vitamin C, and selenium.
It goes without saying that the foods you eat to get these nutrients would ideally be organic and minimally processed (especially after learning what chemical additives can do to your health). All the aforementioned nutrients are incredibly valuable.
Good sleep hygiene means only engaging in relaxing activities for at least an hour before bedtime. This means nothing too stimulating, such as working, making phone calls, answering emails, or anything stressful.
Insomnia is frequently caused by stressful thoughts that don’t allow you to relax. List making is a technique that allows you to let go of thoughts about what you have to do tomorrow by allowing you to remind yourself that it is on the list.
There are many forms of meditation. In general, they all help you develop the ability to quiet your mind and calm yourself. Whether you do a religious form of meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or simply quiet your mind on a regular basis, it can help you gain better control over your thoughts so that you can go to sleep when you want to do so.
Reiki is a healing energy therapy that can soothe physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional issues. Reiki training is available through Reiki Masters. Once you have Level 1 Reiki training, you can use your skill to help you calm down and go to sleep quickly. If you experience chronic pain, Reiki can also help soothe the pain, so you sleep better.
One Reiki practitioner shared that she is able to place her hand over her eyes and frontal lobe, issue the instruction “sleep” and be fast asleep in under sixty seconds whether it is at the beginning of the night or after getting up to use the bathroom.
Positive sleep affirmations
Our minds are very powerful influencers over our bodies. This is the reason good sleep hygiene demands that we not lay in bed watching the clock when we can’t get to sleep. Doing so trains our brain to believe we have trouble sleeping which can cause a Nocebo effect that makes it more difficult for us to sleep.
Positive sleep affirmations can cause a Placebo effect that allows us to get to sleep quickly, remain asleep, and experience restful deep sleep. An example of a positive sleep affirmation is:
“I fall asleep easily and quickly.”
“I will awake feeling well-rested and eager for my day.”
You can even use it to tune out noises if your sleep environment tends to be disturbed by noise:
“I will hear only those noises that are necessary for my health and well-being or that of my loved ones. I can safely ignore and sleep through all other noises.”
This affirmation requires you to trust your inner wisdom to differentiate between normal noises that do not require your attention and fire alarms or crying babies.
Mental health therapy
Mental health therapy, including some forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), are very effective at treating insomnia. Some therapists are trained in a special type of CBT, CBTi, that is designed to specifically treat insomnia. The special CBTi often helps people sleep better after just one session. Very few people need long, drawn out psychoanalysis to improve their sleep health.
Massage therapy with a licensed massage therapist can help you relax and may even help ease certain types of pain that complicate insomnia.
Insomnia is most often caused by psychological stress. Psychological stress is common, but it is voluntary. It is possible to develop healthy habits of thought that significantly reduce the amount of stress you experience without requiring you to give up activities you enjoy. Learning skills that help you change your perspective can help you sleep better at night and feel better during the day.
Your beliefs about your ability to sleep play a role in how well you sleep. If you’ve developed beliefs that you are a poor sleeper, wake up in response to every little noise, or that you can never get enough sleep, working to change your beliefs will be of great benefit to you. Your mind and body cooperate with your beliefs about sleep. Making sure your beliefs about your ability to sleep are aligned with your desires about sleep can make a big difference in your outcome.
Life is precious and staying healthy is the only way you will know how valuable it is to stay hale and hearty. Before you swallow that first sleeping pill, take a good look at your family, and decide whether or not it is worth taking the risk.
Sleeping pills provide an easy way to force a good night’s sleep, but they are not a healthy way to get to sleep. As we earlier mentioned in this post, sleep medication is dangerous. It does not matter whether you are taking nineteen or a hundred pills a year.
The chemicals can harm your body.
If you have a tenacious sleep problem, you should consult your physician for a sleep study to evaluate your sleep and recommend treatments. But don’t forget, that medical personnel has been trained in medical solutions which usually means recommending good sleep hygiene and pharmacological solutions. That’s their limit but it doesn’t have to be yours. Positive sleep affirmations, mental health therapy, Reiki, self-help, massage therapy, and meditation are all low-risk, low-cost solutions. Compared to the high risks of sleeping pills, it makes sense to use them.