By Nurse Mark
Are you Dying For A Good Night’s Sleep?
If you take even a few sleeping pills a year the answer may be “Yes!”
To sleep, Perchance to dream… Has been the sometimes elusive goal of mankind for millennia. Most people will have trouble sleeping at some time or another – usually it’s temporary, and often related to a particular stress or upset. That is normal, and it won’t be a problem for long. Good sleep will return.
For some others, sleep becomes an almost impossible goal – many become so desperate as to be willing to try almost anything to achieve a few hours of blessed unconsciousness. Michael Jackson comes to mind… he is resting now.
Millions of Americans fall somewhere in between the two extremes – and for them a quick trip to the doctor and then to the drugstore to fill a prescription for sleeping pills is something that starts innocently enough but grows into a ritual that is ever-more difficult to escape. Yet escape they must.
That’s because now in addition to the long-known problem of habituation, recent research has given us clear evidence that even infrequent use of sleeping pills results in a significantly increased risk of death and frequent or regular use of these drugs results in a massive increase in death risk, including risk of death from cancer!
“Habituation” is a medical term which simply means that not only does the person find it increasingly difficult and even impossible to sleep without drugs, the drugs themselves must be taken in larger and larger doses to achieve the same effect.
Habituation is an important effect to consider, because the study, reported in the prestigious British Medical Journal made the following points:
- Patients receiving prescriptions for zolpidem, temazepam and other hypnotics [aka "sleeping pills"] suffered over four times the mortality as the matched hypnotic-free control patients.
- Even patients prescribed fewer than 18 hypnotic doses per year experienced increased mortality, with greater mortality associated with greater dosage prescribed.
- Among patients prescribed hypnotics, cancer incidence was increased for several specific types of cancer, with an overall cancer increase of 35% among those prescribed high doses.
For those interested in further reading (this is a very dense article) the study, titled “Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study,” can be found here: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000850.full
Fair warning – if you use sleeping pills, even occasionally, you are going to feel very alarmed and worried after you read that report.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the numbers:
People who used sleeping pills more than 132 times each year were FIVE TIMES more likely to die during the study period. To make that number of uses easier to understand, that 132 times a year works out to 11 times a month, or less than 3 times a week.
People using between 18 and 132 doses each year were four times more likely to die. These are the people who only use a sleeping pill less than twice a month to 11 times a month – which is not very often!
But here’s the most scary finding: Those people who only took 18 or less doses per year were still more than 3.5 times more likely to die than people who took no sleeping pills at all.
Let’s say that again: according to the study, if you take as little as one or two sleeping pills a month you are statistically three and a half times more likely to die than someone who takes none.
So what can you do if you are having trouble sleeping?
First, it is well worth working with a doctor who understands sleep difficulties and is willing to look beyond the simple and easy “out” of just prescribing a sleeping pill. There are as many reasons for sleep problems as there are people who aren’t sleeping!
Is the problem “primary insomnia” – the “I can’t slow my thoughts down and get to sleep” kind of insomnia? (This is the “Michael Jackson” kind of insomnia)
Is the problem “secondary insomnia” – the “I come awake in the small hours of the night and can’t get back to sleep” kind of insomnia? (This is more common in older people and people with unstable blood sugar or hormone imbalances)
Or, is it some combination of the two?
Is sleep being interrupted by something like snoring, sleep apnea, muscle cramps or urinary frequency?
Are there external factors like noise, light, a restless bed-partner, pets, too hot, too cold, or uncomfortable bedding?
Are there internal factors like unstable blood sugar, mood or emotional disorders, or neurotransmitter or hormone imbalances?
All these things must be considered and either ruled out, eliminated, or treated if healthy sleep is to be restored. The help of a good holistic physician can literally be a lifesaver!
Dr. Myatt has a webpage where she discusses insomnia and some common recommendations here: Insomnia
For those who just want to jump ahead to the “short course” here are some of our most effective supplements to promote healthy sleep.
Maxi Multi: 3 caps, 3 times per day with meals. Optimal (not minimal) doses of B complex vitamins and magnesium (both found in Maxi Multi) are particularly important for insomnia.
Melatonin: this hormone decreases with age. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant that helps regulate Circadian Rhythms. It should be used in almost all cases of insomnia. Melatonin is also an an “anti stress” hormone.
Some people complain that they tried melatonin and it didn’t work for them. We usually find that they tried it in a form that they swallowed, as a tablet. Melatonin is not well-absorbed this way, and we recommend that it be take sublingually – that is, dissolved under the tongue. This allows the hormone to enter the bloodstream more directly and without being altered by stomach acids. Rarely, others complain that melatonin helped them sleep, but left them feeling groggy the next day. If this occurs, try taking a smaller dose – a half or even a quarter-tablet to start with.
L-5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan) 100 mg: 1 cap, 3 times per day, twice with meals and once before bed. Dosage may be increased to 2 caps, 3 times per day after 2 weeks if response is inadequate. L-5-HTP is a neurotransmitter precursor; most neurotransmitters decrease with age.
Magnesium (amino acid chelate): 2 tabs, 45 minutes before bedtime. (In addition to what is contained in Maxi-Multi) Magnesium is a “calming” mineral.
Lavender Essential Oil: Used as aromatherapy, lavender has a balancing, relaxing and uplifting effect. Apply several drops to a cotton ball or diffuser to help drift peacefully off to sleep.
Here is a trick that was taught to me as a young Nurse by an old, very experienced European Nurse: It is common practice in some European hospitals to put a few drops of lavender oil on pillows to help relax patients and promote sleep. I know why lavender was held in such high value by our ancestors – it works!
Kavinace – This is our “secret weapon” for treating insomnia. Kavinace potentiates GABA, one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters. Higher GABA levels can relieve anxiety and promote restful sleep. Kavinace works amazingly well as a sleep aid and anti-anxiety formula for people who are low in GABA. Usually 1-2 capsules taken at bedtime (or better, a half-hour before bed) will promote a fine, restful sleep. Three capsules can be used, but may result in a “hangover” sleepiness or “just feeling too well-rested” the next day for some people. Yes, it really is that effective!
Finally, there is a new product that we are trying with a few select patients: Lavela WS 1265 Lavender Oil Capsules.
We have seen very convincing evidence in peer-reviewed medical journal articles regarding it’s effectiveness in reducing anxiety and promoting sleep, and there are very positive reports from those patients who have tried it. It is safe, well-tolerated, non habit-forming and non-sedating. It’s once-a-day dosing is convenient and effective.
We are not actively stocking this product yet as we are still assessing it – but we have a limited number of sample packets available that provide 10 days of treatment – that is probably double what is necessary to achieve a good effect, from what we are seeing so far.
We will not send these samples out to anyone who is not using the more proven sleep aids of both sublingualMelatonin and Kavinace – but if you are serious about getting a good night’s sleep and want to try a 10 day sample course of Lavela WS 1265 Lavender Oil Capsules then please request it when you order your Melatonin and Kavinace – we will of course ask you to please record and report back to us your experience with this new product.
‘Till tomorrow, Pleasant Dreams…
Posted in Drugs and Alternatives, Mental Health | No Comments »