A few years ago, I was having trouble sleeping. I knew I didn’t want to take a sleep aid. So I thought about sleep basics. What was missing? What did I need? What could I change?
Two things came to mind. One: I needed a new mattress. Two: I needed to take the television out of the bedroom.
Now, these weren’t fast and easy fixes. Certainly not as easy as taking a pill and falling into La La Land. But the difference was stunning. These two simple changes dramatically improved the quality of my sleep within just a few nights.
But I also dodged an even larger problem.
Many drugs can help you sleep. Some even provide the temptation of pre-sleep euphoria.
But there’s a terrible catch. Sleep-aid use might lead to the kind of sleep you don’t want to rush into… The Big Sleep.
Counting hypnotic sheep
Results of a recent sleep aid study are shocking. But you can’t say we didn’t see it coming.
Two years ago, I told you about a study that linked regular use of sedative sleep-aid drugs to a sharply increased risk of death during the study period.
Since then, several sleep-aid studies have confirmed a higher risk of premature death.
In the new study, researchers tracked about 10,500 subjects who took “hypnotic” sleep-aids. These drugs include Ambien, Lunesta, barbiturates, and sedative antihistamines.
For more than two years, researchers matched the subjects against 23,600 subjects who didn’t use sleep-aids.
The results… Subjects who took a hypnotic drug more than 132 times each year were FIVE TIMES more likely to die during the study period. And those who took between 18 and 132 doses each year were four times more likely to die.
Those are deeply troubling results. But here’s the one I found most frightening. Subjects who took just 18 or fewer doses per year were more than 3.5 times more likely to die.
A risk that high from such modest use is a major wake-up call!
The saddest thing about all this is the benefit. Or I should say, “imagined” benefit.
As I’ve mentioned before, a review of several different sleep studies showed that, on average, subjects who took sleep-aids slept about 11 additional minutes per night.
Putting your life in jeopardy in exchange for just a few extra minutes of sleep is a risk-benefit ratio that could hardly be more lopsided.
It also means that investment in a new mattress is not only a good idea, it’s priceless.
“Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study” BMJ Open, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 2012, bmjopen.bmj.com
“Common sleeping pills linked to more than fourfold increased risk of death” BMJ-British Medical Journal press release, 2/27/12, eurekalert.org