By Sean Zucker –
Americans are in desperate need of more sleep. In fact, a third of U.S. adults report missing adequate z’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The health drawbacks go well beyond just feeling tired. Several chronic diseases and conditions are linked to lack of sleep, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. The fatigue brought about by inadequate sleep can also undermine a person’s ability to safely execute mundane tasks, such as driving a car or just performing their job.
If these problems weren’t bad enough, some sleep aids may bring their own set of problems. The CDC, for example, warns in its latest sleep report that harsh side effects could be at hand for those most likely to seek medication as a remedy.
The CDC’s breaking data saw over 8 percent of all U.S. adults admitting to using sleeping pills on most days if not everyone with the majority of these users being women or lower-income people. Specifically, 10.2 percent of women and 6.6 percent of men reported taking medication for sleep. Among the men, lower-incomed were more likely to take pharmaceutical aids. For both sexes, its use increased with age.
“Previous research has found similar relationships,” Lindsey Black, a CDC researcher and co-author of the study, told CNN. “This report is useful to document the most recent prevalence estimates of adults’ use of sleep medication and confirm that these differences still persist.”
The data was collected as part of the CDC’s 2020 National Health Interview Survey, which charted various health-related habits of American men and women including the regularity of sleep medication use. The findings are alarming because many experts caution against the dangers of sleeping pills, noting the adverse physical and mental health impact of regular use. In some ways, their concerns rival that of missing sleep altogether.
The Mayo Clinic states that taking pills can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, irregular heartbeat, changes in weight, constipation, diarrhea and even suicidal thoughts. One study conducted by Merck and Co., a pharmaceutical company, found that patients regularly taking sleep medication to treat insomnia resulted in 50 percent of them developing depression and about one-third reported having an anxiety disorder. Beyond that, roughly 80 percent of users indicated some level of residual symptoms.
CNN added that daily intake of sleeping pills may result in the user developing a tolerance to their impact. This can lead to the sleepless needing a higher dosage to induce sleep, which can create dependence. This physical necessity also often inspires withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and continued insomnia.
Luckily, there are plenty of natural remedies and practices that can help improve sleep and replace medication. The Mayo Clinic, for example, recommends establishing a daily sleep schedule in a restful environment that is cool, dark and quiet as a good place to start. If sleep doesn’t come in 20 minutes, the clinic recommends leaving the bed and resetting a person’s body clock by doing something relaxing. Additionally, a healthy diet that avoids nicotine, caffeine and alcohol along with routine exercise also helps. Managing stress and limiting daytime naps is another way to promote nighttime sleep.