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Insomnia and remedies, beware of sleeping pills

December 08, 2023
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Insomnia and remedies, beware of sleeping pills

The importance of ensuring restful sleep and the right number of hours per night, between 6 and 8 hours, is undoubted. Be careful, however. More and more often those who cannot sleep resort to sleeping pills, thinking that this way they will solve the problem. Instead, just the opposite is true. In fact, very recent scientific research shows that regular intake of sleeping pills will perhaps allow you to sleep up to 7 hours a night but reduces life expectancy. The study was published in the journal Sleep Health by a team of scientists from the University of Taiwan (Sun et al, Sleep Health, 2023).

Sleeping pills reduce life expectancy, the study

What effect do sleeping pills have on the health of our organism? To answer this question, Taiwanese scientists have developed a very extensive and therefore solid study. 484,916 people were recruited between 1994 and 2011. The volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire indicating their habit of taking sleeping pills or not and the average time dedicated to sleep, namely less than 4 hours a day, between 4 and 6 hours, between 6 and 8 hours, or more than 8 hours. Over the years, the volunteers were followed to assess their health status. What emerged is that those who have the habit of sleeping between 6 and 8 hours and not taking sleeping pills have the longest life expectancy. People who sleep the same number of hours but who have the habit of taking sleeping pills are 55% more likely to develop diseases with an unfortunate outcome. In general, those who regularly take sleeping pills throughout their lives without changing this habit achieve an average reduction in life expectancy of just over 5 years. This value increases if the person is young at the start of treatment with sleeping pills and if the duration of sleep, following taking sleeping pills, exceeds 8 hours. As regards the mechanisms by which sleeping pills can reduce life expectancy, it is possible to hypothesize an increase in daytime grogginess, falls, especially in the elderly, the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration and cellular degenerations. However, the causes of what has been observed have not yet been clearly explored.

Conclusions and advice from experts

Sleeping is important and insomnia is a condition to be prevented and combated. In fact, insomnia, if prolonged over time, worsens the quality of life, increases irritability, daytime drowsiness, inflammation, the risk of accidents, of developing hypertension, heart disease and neurodegeneration. However, we need to be careful and not immediately turn to sleeping pills that are certainly the simplest remedy, but, as we have seen, can have important repercussions on health. Hence the importance of acting on lifestyle first, as experts suggest, trying to always go to bed and to wake up at the same time, to follow an active lifestyle but to avoid vigorous exercises in the evening hours, to not consume foods and drinks containing caffeine from late afternoon onwards.

Then, avoid large meals a few hours before going to sleep, keep the bedroom dark and cool and, in case you have to wake up to go to the bathroom, turn on only a small light so as not to make your brain think it's time to wake up.

Then there are essential oils to be diffused in the room or to be poured on a handkerchief near the pillow, such as lavender or the mixture of lavender, ylang ylang and bergamot, studied by science, which has demonstrated its usefulness in improving the quality of sleep.

Then there are yoga and breathing techniques, which help to free the mind from obsessive thoughts and problems and help you fall asleep. Finally, some supplements and herbal preparations, based on melatonin, passion flower, lemon balm, hops, lavender, poria cocos mushroom and sour cherry can also help. In this case, however, always contact your doctor before starting treatment with these remedies to check your personal situation and avoid interactions with medications.

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