Sleeping pills have been lambasted for increasing all kinds of physical chaos, from weight gain and heart disease to depression, as well as increasing your risk of early death. However, there’s also the belief that the studies showing increased risk haven’t adequately looked at the health issues that study participants already had. Whatever the case, it seems that there’s an addictive element to sleeping pills. Even if it’s more of a psychological addiction than a chemical one. Sleep is an entirely natural biological action – your body will shut down for sleep eventually. Many insomniacs’ anxiety about not falling asleep exacerbates their inability to do so. Being knocked out for the required 7-8 hours often wins out over tossing and turning for half the night. But while sleeping pills can assist you to get back into a healthy sleep routine if it’s been interrupted for some reason (jet lag, grief), it’s not a healthy long-term solution.
did you know?
A recent study at Harvard Medical School found that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) was more effective in treating chronic insomnia than prescription sleeping pills. People who used CBT, including the relaxation exercises and good sleeping habits advocated, experienced the greatest changes in falling and staying asleep – and these benefits remained in place for up to a year after therapy ended.
STOP THE DRUGS
To stop taking sleeping pills and have more control over your own sleeping patterns and dreams (sleeping pills negatively affect your REM sleep), you’ll firstly need a dose of patience and self belief. You’ll need to take it seriously, too, by making the necessary lifestyle changes to create an environment, mind and body more conducive to natural, quality sleep.
It is entirely possible to get your body back into a natural sleep rhythm, even without using other sleep aids. One of the most common causes of sleep-onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep) is an overactive mind. So, you’ll need to do what you can to reduce stress and calm your mind (deep breathing, exercise earlier in the day, not drinking caffeine after midday, etc).
Don’t throw your pills away at first, though. Just having them close by will help in easing some of the panic you might feel the first night you stop. If you’re overly anxious about stopping, try weaning yourself off over a period of a week or so (you can expect to experience some side-effects such as anxiety and rebound insomnia when you stop). If you can, plan to stop over a weekend or when you’re on holiday, as that may reduce your anxiety about having to be fully alert the next day.
Give yourself a month to fully get over the psychological need to take sleeping pills. Be patient with yourself, and like with any drug, take one day at a time. If you do feel desperate and take a pill one night, don’t think you’ve failed and give up trying to stop.
One thing’s for sure, once you’re back in tune with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, you’ll feel the difference – and your dreams will once again be your own.
IF A SNORING SPOUSE IS PART OF THE PROBLEM, INVEST IN A PACK OF SILICONE EAR PLUGS TO KEEP THE NOISE LEVEL TO A MINIMUM.