Petaluma, CA (PRWEB) April 11, 2012
An alarming study last month showing an increased risk of death and elevated cancer rates among users of popular prescription sleep medications has researchers and sleep experts recommending that use of sleep drugs, including Ambien®, Lunesta® and Restoril®, be discontinued in favor of alternative treatments for insomnia.
Published in the online journal BMJ, the study tracked the survival of over 10,500 people prescribed a range of sleeping pills for an average of 2.5 years, including such widely used hypnotics as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and temazepam (Restoril). Even among patients who were prescribed only 1 to 18 sleeping pills per year, the risk of death was 3.6 times higher than among similar participants who did not take the medications. The study also found that rates of new cancers were 35 percent higher among patients who were prescribed at least 132 hypnotic doses a year as compared with those who did not take the drugs.
“What our study shows is that sleeping pills are hazardous to your health and might cause death by contributing to the occurrence of cancer, heart disease and other ailments,” says study author Daniel F. Kripke, MD, of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center at Scripps Health in San Diego.
In light of this disturbing data, researchers are now calling for certain sleeping pill alternatives to be considered as a first line of treatment for insomnia, an idea that is beginning to take hold in the medical community. Smart Publications, a leading provider of science-based natural health information, says that users of prescription sleep medications may find the same -- or improved -- relief after making the switch to certain research-backed natural sleep remedies.
“Research has long shown that certain natural sleep remedies usually work well enough to relieve insomnia and don’t come with these frightening side effects of drugs like Ambien, Lunesta, and Restoril,” says Smart Publication’s CEO John Morgenthaler.
“Certainly, this latest study tells us that the perscription sleeping pills should not be used casually, there are serious risks involved. And people taking these drugs need to know that there are other remedies out there that can help,” he adds.
Melatonin: The body’s sleep/wake cycle is governed by circadian rhythms, with two daily peak times for sleeping, night and midday. As the sun goes down in the late afternoon, the cells in the retina of the eye send a message to a cluster of nerve cells known as the circadian clock, located in the hypothalamus deep in the center of the brain. The circadian clock then signals the pineal gland to produce the hormone melatonin. The job of melatonin is to bring on drowsiness and, ultimately, induce sleep.
Research shows that low melatonin production is associated with insomnia in patients aged 55 years or older. Taking a melatonin supplement has been shown to help with sleep issues, especially in older adults. There may be other health benefits associated with melatonin supplementation, including the prevention of osteoporosis.
GABA: Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid (GABA) is naturally produced by the body and is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Too much brain activity can lead to insomnia, but GABA works to inhibit the number of nerve cells that fire in the brain, reducing anxiety and allowing a restful nights sleep. Normally, the brain produces all the GABA the body needs. But GABA levels may become depleted from poor diet, illness, exposure to environmental toxins, and age.
To explore the benefits of GABA supplementation, a recent double-blind, placebo controlled study at the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, followed 18 patients with sleep disorders who were given either a placebo or a supplement containing GABA. Before they started the supplement, it took the treated group about 32 minutes to fall asleep. After taking the supplement, it only took about 19 minutes, on average. Before supplementation, the duration of their sleep was about 5 hours, and after supplementation it increased to about 6.83 hours.
Passion Flower Extract (Passiflora incarnata): Used by Native American Indians as a sedative and sleep aid, passion flower is valued by herbalists for its sedative and tranquilizing abilities and approved by the German Commission E in the treatment of insomnia and nervousness. Passion flower may be especially useful when sleeplessness is related to stress.
Magnolia Extract (Magnolia officinalis): From the magnolia tress comes a potent antioxidant that acts as a powerful non-addictive antidepressant that alleviates stress and anxiety, without the tranquilizing side effects of drugs. Among sufferers of stress, anxiety, or depression, it’s common to have trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep. In fact, insomnia is strongly connected with clinical depression and may even be depression’s first recognizable symptom. Dozens of animal studies have shown that magnolia extract acts as a non-addictive, anxiolytic (antianxiety and anti-stress) agent at low doses.
Helping More People Get a Good Night’s Rest
For now, sleep experts are calling for more research into the dangers of prescription sleep medications. According to Smart Publications, as many as 10% of Americans have a chronic sleep problem that interferes with their daily responsibilities and 1 out of every 4 Americans takes some kind of sleep aid medication.
Smart Publications is a publisher of health and wellness books. They are the publishers of the best seller Smart Drugs & Nutrients and have since covered many other health topics in nutritional medicine, naturopathic medicine, alternative medicine, and anti-aging medicine. All their books are listed at: http://www.smart-publications.com/books
The recent BMJ study can be seen at http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000850