When you should be concerned about using sleep aids…
Do you find it hard to get to sleep at night and end up groggy during the day? Listen to this: Research finds more and more women are suffering from insomnia and many are now taking sleeping pills to help them get some rest.
Maria is a high-powered business executive by day—and at night, she’s wide awake. For more than a year she’s suffered from insomnia. “It’s very difficult to empty my mind of the stresses of the day.”
To get some shut-eye, Maria alternates taking prescription sleep aids, anti-anxiety pills and muscle relaxants. “I can sleep without the drugs on a good night. On a bad night when I feel a lot of anxiety I definitely cannot sleep without the help of drugs.”
Maria is just one of a new era of sleepless women popping prescription and over-the-counter pills. This study from the National Sleep Foundation found nearly three in ten women say they take sleeping aids at least a few nights a week.
Those stats come as no surprise to Dr. Nancy Collop, who runs Emory University’s sleep center. She says three out of four of her insomnia patients are female. “It’s very clear that women have more problems with it.”
Collop’s seeing more overscheduled soccer moms, stressed out working women, and women undergoing hormonal changes taking pills to help them rest. “If they’re using them intermittently you know, a few nights here and there, it’s probably not so bad. But we find that most people probably don’t really want to have to depend on taking a sleeping pill every night to sleep.”
Experts at Klean Treatment Center in West Hollywood, say women who start to depend on sleep aids run the risk of becoming “accidental addicts.” They start using over-the-counter sleeping pills, then prescription pills, then stronger medications. Klean’s director of intake Joe Parrot says that’s when a cycle of dependency starts. “When a woman says to me I don’t really have a problem, I ask her one question: Can you sleep without it? And if they say they can’t sleep without it then there is a problem.”
“No.” Was the answer Klean patient “Ann” had to Joe’s question, but then she realized she did have a problem. “The issue became I couldn’t sleep without them.”
“Ann’s” doctor, Dr. Alan Jason Coe, who’s the Medical Director at Klean, discovered anxiety was keeping her up and has this advice for female insomniacs popping pills. “The trend of using sleep aids to treat insomnia is not getting at the real problem whether it’s an underlying anxiety problem or an underlying depression problem that needs to be looked at.”
One potential problem of pill-popping is that side effects from long-term use of sleep aids are not well studied. But experts agree, the best way to resolve the problem is to figure out the real reason you can’t sleep! Maria also found it was work stress and is now weaning herself off the pills.
Experts say everyone may have trouble sleeping now and then, if insomnia persists for more than three weeks in a row, you may want to talk to your doctor.
But first try these simple sleep tips:
- Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
- If you can’t fall asleep get up and read don’t stay in bed.
Instead of taking pills, sleep doctors can teach you ways to modify your behavior and help figure out what’s keeping you tossing and turning at night.