Sleeping Pills Don’t Help Women in the Long Run

Over the years, we have written a lot about sleep. Allowing your body and brain to rest is vital for good health. We’ve shared tips and food suggestions to improve sleep. With diet, a nighttime routine and a good setting, you can help yourself get a better night’s sleep. Our new BP Dove supplement can help sleep through whole body calming.

But, many people turn to prescription sleep aids to improve their nights when insomnia takes over. Around nine million Americans take prescription sleeping pills every year. But, new research has found that they don’t help women in the long run. The study compared 200 women who took medication for sleep problems to 400 women with sleeping problems who weren’t medicated. It found that, after a year or more, the medicated women were getting no more sleep than the unmedicated.

The simple conclusion is that long-term use of sleep medications does not have a clear benefit with respect to chronic sleep problems,” said Dr. Daniel Solomon of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Solomon was the study’s author. “All the women in our study had reported sleep disturbances. Some of them started a medicine and some did not, and then we followed them longitudinally one year later and two years later. We asked them about their regular medication use at each annual visit, and we also asked them about sleep disturbances using a well-described sleep disturbance scale… It turns out that about 35 percent to 40 percent of people who start on them are using them a year later.”

Dr. Solomon’s team thought the problem might be because of lifestyle causes. If you’re using screens close to bedtime, anxious, drinking caffeine or have a lot of energy, medication might not help your underlying issues. You need to work on your “sleep hygiene” instead. “If you’re going to use sleep meds, you really have to think about them as short-term or very intermittent meds,” Dr. Solomon said. “Use them for a week, or a couple of nights here and there. But once you start to use them long-term, it’s not as if they’re curative for your sleep problems.”

It is crucial to stress that if you take medication for sleep, this study doesn’t mean you should stop taking your prescription without talking to your doctor. It’s crucial to speak to your doctor before making any significant changes to your routine.

The study is interesting because it was two years of information from people’s normal routine. A lot of sleep studies are done in labs under set conditions. This version shows a fuller picture of people living their everyday lives, eating their average diet and going to jobs. You get a lot of variety you might not see in a lab. According to the study, “Real-world data... provide important opportunities for looking at the way drugs may actually be used in typical practice.”

As long-term sleep problems often stem from stress or other mental problems, speak to your doctor about what other factors might be impacting your sleep. Medication plays a large role in health. But, from this study, it seems it might not be able to do much to help you get your rest.

Banner image:  Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

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