We’ve been talking about the costs of insomnia as well as foods that can affect your sleep. Clearly, poor sleep and insomnia are big problems for many people. Unfortunately, prescription sleep aids can actually make the problem worse by causing side effects that are sometimes worse than the original problem!
Did you know that prescription sleeping pills are only meant for short term use? That’s right, most are only indicated to be used for 4-6 weeks! Long term use of prescription sleeping pills can can actually interfere with sleep.
Prescriptions sleeping pills are known as “sedative hypnotics” - these include benzodiazapenes, barbiturates and other hypnotics. Unfortunately, benzodiazapenes are highly addictive drugs. These include Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Librium, and are actually anti-anxiety medications.
Barbiturates are another addictive class of drugs. They work by depressing the central nervous system, which is your brain! These drugs are used as sleep drugs, but they’re really meant for anesthesia.
Newer classes of drugs shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. These include Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien. Still potentially addictive, these medications have side effects known as parasomnias, which are behaviors and actions over which you have no control. During a parasomnia, you’re asleep and unaware of what is happening! These include things like sleep walking, sleep eating, making phone calls, online shopping, and even sleep driving!
Here’s a list of other common side effects from more popular sleeping pills like Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta: (11,12)
- Burning in hands, arms, legs or feet
- Increased appetite
- Daytime drowsiness
- Problems with balance
- Dry mouth or throat
- Heart burn
- Mental slowing
- Problems with attention or memory
- Stomach pain
- Uncontrollable shaking of body parts
I know, I know sounds like a lot of fun, right? Fortunately there are many safe, effective natural sleep remedies that can be used for sleep issues.
The problem with sleep medications is that they don’t help the underlying cause, and this is how dependency forms. Sleep is of course a natural event in our lives, and the goal is to reset the normal sleep-wake rhythm. The longer this cycle has been disrupted, the more work it may take to correct. However by working to reset the sleep-wake cycle, eventually the brain remembers what it should be doing and sleep can be repaired. Consider these all-natural sleep aids that work!
Sleep Easy is our premier natural sleep remedy and contains melatonin, 5-HTP, L-theanine, sleep-promoting amino acids and several sleep-enhancing herbs, plus vitamin B6 and Magnesium. It’s a potent combination of 13 of the best sleep promoting natural medicines known.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid which is a direct precursor to an important neurotransmitter in the brain known as serotonin. Serotonin has many tasks in the brain, but one of it’s main functions is regulating sleep. Taking 5-HTP has a calming effect and can improve the onset of sleep. It won’t necessarily make you feel drowsy, but will allow the brain to slow down and prepare you to sleep.
Cortisol Relief is a combination product that helps to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that should be low in the evening. If stress is high, or your adrenal glands are fatigued, cortisol may be elevated at night and cause you to wake up throughout the night. Heavy training can also cause cortisol to be elevated at night.
Magnesium-This simple mineral is key for healthy sleep. It acts as a very gentle sedative, and as a muscle relaxer. Use this for ensuring a good night’s sleep, or if you have occasional insomnia when you travel.
Each of the above natural sleep remedies can be used alone or in combination. Start with one and see how your body responds - remember natural sleep remedies are more gentle than prescription drugs. Our purpose in using them is to retrain the sleep cycle.
In other words, these remedies will work more slowly over time. After a few days you’ll notice your sleep normalizing. Its also common to have a few good night's sleep then regress. Keep at it as the sleep cycle becomes normalized you’ll experience more nights of restorative sleep and fewer nights of interrupted or poor-quality sleep.
Remember to check out our other important blogs on sleep - lifestyle factors that interfere with sleep and the foods that can disrupt sleep as well!
11. Holm KJ, et al. Drugs. 2000 Apr;59(4):865-89.
12. Toner LC, et al. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2000 Jan-Feb;23(1):54-8.