Trouble Sleeping? Step Away from the Pills

By Dr. Bob Ghelfi

Last week, the Today show featured a segment on a recent study that suggests people who chronically use sleep aids experience a decreased life span. Researchers at Scripps Health in San Diego, California analyzed data on approximately 35,000 patients, including 10,000 that had been prescribed sleeping pills at some point in the lifespan. The results of the analysis revealed a link between popular sleep aids and early death and cancer.  The study took lifestyle factors into account and other health issues, but held the risk for early death.  Researchers say this is only the beginning of what will evolve into more and larger studies to determine the effects of sleep aids on health and lifespan.

Sleeping pills are not the only option for more and better sleep.  In fact, they should be a last resort. Many individuals will discover improved sleep through natural hormone balance. In particular, women with low progesterone and individuals with poor melatonin production often have difficulty sleeping. Both may be corrected through a series of tests and hormone replacement therapy.

Sometimes poor sleep is simply linked to stress, or something as simple as no bedtime routine – if your mind and your body cannot wind down at the end of a long day, sleep becomes a challenge. If you have a lot on your mind, consider making a list of all the things that are bothering you or the “to-do’ list that just won’t leave your mind.  Keep a pen and a pad of paper by your bed, if something pops into your head, write it down and them let it go – it will be there waiting for you in the morning. When preparing for bed, avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine and stay away from alcohol – this inhibit the sleep cycle.  Avoid exposing yourself to bright lights like those streaming from the TV, computer, iPhone and iPad. Intense light, like the type emitted from these devices, lowers your production of melatonin and can keep you from drifting deeply off to sleep.


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