Recent studies have linked the lack of sleep to:
- Memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease risk
- A decrease in brain size
- Suicide risk
- Weight gain
- Higher blood pressure
I discussed these studies in depth on my blog. All this information is enough to make you stay up at night with worry!
So, in this blog, I will provide you with some natural tips for getting good sleep and discuss two studies that demonstrate the danger of long-term use of sleeping pills.
Sleeping and Anxiety Pills Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
One study sought to determine the relationship between the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and exposure to benzodiazepines started at least five years before. The study also aimed to determine the effect of dosage and prodromes (anxiety, depression, insomnia) linked with treatment. The study was a case-control design with 1,796 people in the Quebec Health Insurance Database (RAMQ) who had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were followed for at least 6 years and matched with 7,184 controls. (1-2) Exposure to benzodiazepines and dosage was determined. The study’s conclusion state (bold emphasis mine):
Conclusion: Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The stronger association observed for long term exposures reinforces the suspicion of a possible direct association, even if benzodiazepine use might also be an early marker of a condition associated with an increased risk of dementia. Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern. (1)
Sleeping Pills Linked to Falls
A recent article in Medscape reported another risk associated with hypnotic medicine as presented at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) 2014 Annual Meeting:
Use of hypnotic medications for insomnia and use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are each associated with an increased risk for osteoporotic and hip fractures in older women and men, independent of other risk factors on the fracture risk assessment tool FRAX, a new study shows. (3)
What About Melatonin for Sleep?
Interestingly, a rat study demonstrated that melatonin supplementation modulated bone strength in rats. There may then be a connection between lack of sleep, bone health, and hypnotics in relationship to the production of melatonin? (4)
University of Maryland provides a list of possible interactions with melatonin and suggested that antidepressants deplete melatonin. They also report:
The combination of melatonin and triazolam (a benzodiazepine medication used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders) improved sleep quality in one study. In addition, a few reports have suggested that melatonin supplements may help individuals stop using long-term benzodiazepine therapy. (Benzodiazepines are highly addictive.) (5)
Should You Supplement With Melatonin?
Dan Pardi, researcher on sleep and who works with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University and the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, (6-8) discussed in an interview with Dr. Mercola his take on melatonin supplementation. He feels that the production of melatonin via light manipulation verses actually taking the hormone as supplement may be best. However, supplementation could be helpful for adjusting to time zone travel. Specifically, taking melatonin taken when the sun would be going down where you are traveling to or before bedtime may be most beneficial. (6)
He further reported that the placebo effect is very powerful in controlling insomnia. He feels that taking something that you believe will work can help calm the anxiety associated with sleeplessness. He further reports that melatonin may have the ability to affect the sleep cycle and increase the dark phase of sleep and is being investigated in cancer trials and overall wellness. (6)
It’s important to remember that melatonin is a hormone so you should be well-informed if you decide to take it as a supplement.
Some Natural Approaches to Better Sleep Include:
- Setting up a regular bedtime routine and sticking to a regular bedtime.
- Exposing yourself to sunlight during the day to modulate your circadian clock.
- Sleeping in a cool room.
- Using essential oils to calm stress and modulate hormonal and melatonin secretion.
- Sleep hacking- I’ll be discussing how some of the smartest experts in health and wellness are finding ways to decrease the risks associated with less than optimal amounts of sleep in an upcoming blog. (9-10)
(1) Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study. BMJ 2014; 349:g5205. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5205 (Published 09 September 2014)
(2) Briggs, H. Anxiety and sleeping pills ‘linked to dementia’. BBC News. September 9, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-29127726
(3) Nancy A. Melville. SSRIs, Hypnotics Increase Fracture Risk. Medscape Medical News > Conference News. September 22, 2014
(4) Tresguerres, I, et al., Melatonin dietary supplement as an anti-aging therapy for age-related bone loss. Rejuvenation Research, 2014; 140311120122003 DOI: 10.1089/rej.2013.1542
(5) University of Maryland Medical Center. Possible Interactions with Melatonin. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement-interaction/possible-interactions-with-melatonin#ixzz3EkLWebVg
(6) Mercola, J. How the Cycles of Light and Darkness Affect Your Health and Wellbeing. Mercola.com. January 19, 2014. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/19/sleep-light-exposure.aspx
(7) Dr. Mercola Interviews Dan Pardi About Sleep. YouTube. January 19, 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R44hcu295l4
(8) Pardi, D. How light exposure affects health – an interview of Dan by Dr. Joseph Mercola. Dan’s Plan. January 19, 2014. http://www.dansplan.com/blog/tag/sleep
(9) Aprey, D. Sleep Hacking Part 1: How to Sleep Less & Do More. Bulletproofexec.com. https://www.bulletproofexec.com/sleep-hacking-part-1-how-to-sleep-less-do-more/
(10) Ameer Rosic. How to get Better Sleep: 25 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep .ammerrosic.com. July 8, 2014.