Should I Use Sleeping Tablets to Help Me Sleep?
If you’re on them or considering going on them, maybe do some peripheral reading around it. Most sleeping tablets are simply sedatives that don’t offer us a magic door into natural sleep, there are more reminisce of alcohol and its impact on sleep.
And if you’ve ever a consumed a few bevies then gone to bed, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Sedation just numbs the brains electrical activity rather than cradling us gently into dreamland and falling short on deep restful sleep. The result in the morning is a foggy and groggy self that no one wants to be around, least of all you! The groggy feeling in the morning is much improved with caffeine which, as you now know, impedes the timing and quality of sleep and so the cycle is perpetuated.
The second point to mention with sleeping tablets is their ability to unwire our brain. As I mentioned in previous blogs the perfect predicament for learning is focus + urgency followed by sleep. At this point, the brain is rewiring and strengthening the connection between neurons.
Sleeping tablets interfere with natural sleep so much that this rewiring and strengthening process (neural plasticity) does not occur. Good luck studying for an exam whilst taking sleeping tablets…you won’t remember the things you studied before sleep.
Last point – but actually should have been my first point, which would have saved me tapping out the last 211 words. Sleeping tablets will increase your risk of dying earlier, and I’m not talking about sleeping walking down George Street and getting hit by a tram. A study by Dr Daniel Kripke from San Diego compared over 10,000 patients taking sleeping tablets regularly to those not taking sleeping tablets. He controlled other risk factors which could pollute the data and the results were staggering. The more sleeping tablets are taken per year the greater the risk of death – according to Dr Kripke individuals taking more than 132 pills per year were 5.3 times more likely to die earlier and even those only taking up to 18 pills a year increased their risk by 3.6 times compared to the non-users.
What will help Sleep?
Several things help with sleep, but if you’re struggling and need intervention and therapy then CBT can help.
I talked about CBT before and its ability to help various conditions – well one of those is insomnia. CBT is about disrupting habits that don’t serve you and replacing them with more positive ones and this alone could be the greatest thing you could do for your health longterm. Work with a therapist or if that’s not an option identify habits in your sleep routine that doesn’t help you. If you’re not getting 7-8 hours consistently ask yourself why and how can you claw back some time. Are you watching TV or looking at your phone until sleep time, are you stressed, do you worry, are you too hot, are you drinking? Systematically dissect your sleep hygiene to see what improvements can be made and make the necessary changes by disrupting the habit and replacing it with one which is fosters improved sleep.
Other things that assist a good nights sleep.
1. Create a regular sleep routine
2. Exercise during the day
3. Avoid processed foods and sugar and high carbohydrates
4. Avoid going to be too full or too hungry
5. Avoid napping in the day if you’re struggling to fall asleep at night
6. Avoid caffeine beyond mid-morning or all together
7. Ensure your room is cool – the optimal temperature is 17-19C
8. Learn to manage anxiety-inducing thoughts
9. Avoid sleeping tablets
10. Hot and cold showers (finish on a cold blast)
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