Risk Factors of Sleep Aids


“Life is not merely to be alive, but to be well”
Marcus Valerius Martial

The use of sleeping pills in America has more than doubled since 2000. It’s been reported that people using the popular pill Ambien, for example, have been sleep-walking, bingeing on food, and even driving during the night with no memory of it the next morning!

Artificial sleep aids are meant to treat temporary - not chronic - conditions. But most pharmacologic sleep aids, called hypnotics, are habit-forming. What’s worse, use of sleeping pills may worsen chronic insomnia by further disturbing the body’s natural sleep mechanisms. Then you’ll have two problems: insomnia and a drug dependency.

Sleeping pills are a goldmine for the pharmaceutical industry. According to Dr. Mercola in 2011 alone an estimated 40 million prescriptions for such drugs were dispensed. In 2011 sales of generic Ambien amounted to $2.8 billion and Lunesta another $912 million. Prescription sleep aids are some of the most heavily marketed drugs to the public. Lunesta’s manufacturer Sepracor spent more than $215 million and added 450 salespeople to its physician marketing staff just to pitch the drug to doctors in 2005, when it was released. And it paid off. Lunesta generated $329 million in sales its first nine months - with one sleep specialist saying it was the only time he’d ever experienced “a line of people outside his door waiting to try a new medicine.”

Unfortunately, the dangers of these drugs are as impressive as the profits they generate for Big Pharma. By taking prescription sleeping pills, you may be unknowingly putting your life in danger. The list of health risks from sleeping pills is growing all the time, including the following:

  • Higher risk of death, including from accidents

  • Increased risk of cancer

  • Increased insulin resistance, food cravings, weight gain and diabetes

  • Complete forgetfulness, even from events that occurred during the day Depression, confusion, disorientation, and hallucinations

In extreme circumstances, short-term medication use can help a chronic insomniac function, but sleeping pills will not resolve the problem. That’s like turning up the radio to drown out the fire alarm.

In fact, recent evidence shows that natural and behavioral approaches to insomnia, like cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques, are more effective than medication at treating long-term insomnia.