Sleep Meds

Article on Sleep Medication
An Exert from Women's Health Magazine

Article on Sleep Medication: "Tossing and turning night after night can make a person desperate enough to storm her doc's office. But instead of searching for the ROOT cause of insomnia, many physicians simply whip out their prescription pads. "Until recently, many doctors were not trained in sleep treatment in med school," says James Mass, Ph.D. "Of the 90 or so sleep disorders, most physicians can name around four. Many hand over pills because they don't know how else to solve the problem." To wit, a whopping 60 million sleep prescriptions were filled in 2009, according to research firm IMS Health.

All this pill popping has ushered in a new set of problems. For one thing, some sleep drugs are addictive, especially older ones such as benzodiazepines. Even the new class of nonbenzos can be habit forming, says sleep doctor Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D., director of behavioral sleep medicine at Montefiore Medical Center's Sleep-Wake Disorders Central in NYC. "Though people are not hooked on them physiologically, they can develop a psychological dependence and think they'll never sleep if they don't take a pill," she says. Rare but scary side effects include things like memory loss and sleepwalking, sleep driving or sleep sex. Plus, says Philip Westbook, M.D., no studies show what extended use of these drugs does to your body.

"The bottome line is that prescription sleeping pills are a short-term solution," says Maas. Simply put, drugs may be a godsend for temporary insomnia, but continuous use could be dangerous. "Taking a pill won't get to the underlying issue," says Westbrook. Most frightening of all, "insomnia can be a symptom of depression, and depression patients who take sleeping pills have an increased risk of suicide." Likewise, sleep apnea, when treated with Rx sleep meds, can turn fatal."

Reference: Bender, Rachel G. "Sleep Tight - Every Night." Women's Health Magazine. Women's Health Magazine, March 2011.

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