Any one of us can experience insomnia and other problems relating to sleep. When such conditions persist, they are referred to as chronic conditions, and it is estimated that about 40 million Americans suffer from chronic insomnia and sleep-related disorders. That is a lot of people. All too often, the “solution” is to take any of various drugs. These drugs range from over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids to heavy, addictive anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medications.
- Over-the-Counter: OTC sleep aids such as Nytol, Sominex, Unisom, and ZzzQuil usually consist of an antihistamine (allergy or cold medication) and can also include acetaminophen (active ingredient of Tylenol and other medications). Side effects include drowsiness the following day, dizziness, forgetfulness, loss of balance, dry mouth and throat, constipation, urinary retention, and blurred vision.
- Sleep Aids: The prescription “sleep aids” or “hypnotics” like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata have a list of side effects that include impaired driving ability, memory loss, sleep walking, erratic behavior, delirium, hallucination, unconsciousness, dependence, addiction, and injury from falls or other accidents. The drugs are also linked to depression and suicide.
- Benzodiazepines: Other drugs prescribed for sleep problems and anxiety are called benzodiazepines or “benzos” and include Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion, Valium, and Librium. Reportedly meant to reduce anxiety, they are associated with side effects such as nausea, fatigue, cognitive impairment, confusion, depression, amnesia, insomnia (yes, you read that right), skin reactions, aggressive behavior, dependence, addiction, suicide, and violent behavior. It is very dangerous for anyone using benzodiazepines to abruptly stop taking them without medical supervision due to potentially fatal seizures and other withdrawal symptoms.
- Antipsychotics: Another class of drug is called antipsychotics or “major tranquilizers” and includes Zyprexa, Abilify, Risperdal, and Seroquel. These drugs are intended for people with psychological disturbances, yet are also prescribed, oddly enough, for insomnia and sleep problems. Like benzodiazepines, they act upon the brain chemistry of the user. They do not simply “make you relax.” Side effects of antipsychotics include blood disorders, drooling , fainting, fever, hives, sexual dysfunction, spasms, convulsions, muscle rigidity, paralysis, tardive dyskinesia (neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements of face and jaw), akathisia (sensation of intense restlessness and inability to remain still).
Drugs Do Not Solve the Problem
Even antidepressants get prescribed for insomnia and conditions other than depression. It is also common for people to abuse painkillers like OxyContin (oxycodone) or Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) in an attempt to help them sleep. It is also very common for a person taking psychotropic drugs to wind up dependent upon or addicted to several drugs simultaneously.
Virtually all of the drugs used for sleep – per prescription or otherwise – are classified as central nervous system depressants. Certain drugs are also known as sedatives or tranquilizers. They can be quite dangerous and lead to respiratory depression (shutting down of the respiratory organs) which can be fatal. Alone or mixed with other drugs they can lead to tragic consequences. Another common “solution” is to drink alcohol, another depressant.
A mild sedative may be advisable under certain circumstances, in a controlled setting, and for a finite period of time – particularly when a person is having difficulty sleeping and is enduring mental or physical pain. This is because the lack of sleep will only exacerbate the situation; the best remedy then is for the person to simply sleep.
Holistic and Natural Solutions for Sleep Disorders
The rampant use of sleeping pills and addictive depressants is not helping the millions experiencing insomnia or sleep disorders. The drugs simply mask the problem. They do not solve it. Due to the nature of drugs in general, they sooner or later make the problem worse. A natural approach is much safer. Some holistic remedies include:
When you get to the supermarket, you don’t have to go straight for the sugar cereal, chips, soda, cookies, TV dinners, frozen and processed foods. You can get fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. A rational nutritional plan will often result in the disappearance of unwanted conditions. Drink plenty of water as well.
Two natural supplements that people use for jetlag and similar problems are tryptophan and melatonin. Tryptophan (also called L-tryptophan) is an essential amino acid that the body converts to melatonin (a hormone which regulates the circadian rhythms). Both are available as supplements for their calming effect.
Many people swear by their chamomile tea and other herbal mixes before bed nightly to help them wind down and relax.
- Hot stones massage
- Music therapy
- Sauna/Steam Bath
- Reiki (Japanese massage with spiritual roots)
- Cognitive Therapy
These remedies can help you realize a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment – and help you relax and sleep so you feel rejuvenated.