5 Questions You Need to Ask About Taking Your Sleeping Pills Correctly
According to Dr. Oz, we are in a sleep deprivation crisis in the U.S. as more and more Americans are turning to sleeping pills by the end of the day. In fact, sleeping pills have become so common of a way to get a good night’s sleep that in 2011 over 60-million sleeping pill prescriptions were made by physicians for their patients.
“Millions of you are not getting enough sleep. And more and more of you are relying on sleeping aids to fix it. But do they really work?” asks Dr. Oz as he alerts viewers to the five questions they need to ask themselves to determine if they are taking their sleeping pills correctly. Because if you do not take your sleeping pills correctly, you are opening yourself up to developing gastric reflux disease, depression and even cancer warns Dr. Oz.
With Dr. Oz is sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D. and Dr. Nina Radcliff an anesthesiologist, both of who tell Dr. Oz that the problem many people face is that of desperation to get that 7 to 8 hours of sleep their body needs to be healthy. Dr. Breus says that one of the biggest problems of taking sleeping pills is that too often people take them every night rather than just ever now and then when really needed.
“That is not what they [sleeping pills] were really designed to do,” says Dr. Breus.
Dr. Radcliff adds that it’s not only the prescription pills that are part of the problem, but the fact that people also take over-the-counter non-prescription sleep aids that can vary widely in how they work and how they should be administered.
As part of his own study, Dr. Oz polled audience viewers about their sleeping pill habits with 5 questions he created that he says you need to ask yourself before you reach for your next sleeping pill.
Sleeping Pill Question #1: How often do you take a sleeping pill?
“This actually stunned me,” says Dr. Oz. “Thirty percent of our audience said that they take a sleeping pill one or more nights per week.”
Dr. Breus points out that this should raise a red flag to anyone using sleeping pills if they fall into this usage pattern because it means that they are taking sleeping pills on a regular basis, which then habituates their body and their thinking that they have to have a sleeping pill in order to get to sleep rather than discovering how to go to sleep without a pill.
Sleeping Pill Question #2: Do you take a sleeping pill to fall asleep or to stay asleep?
“You have to make sure that your compound or medication has actually been tailored to the sleep problem you have,” says Dr. Breus who explains that there are two primary types of insomnia: Sleep-onset insomnia where you can’t fall asleep, and sleep maintenance insomnia commonly referred to as “roller coaster insomnia” where you repeatedly wake up and fall asleep throughout the night. Dr. Breus’ point is that if you do take sleeping pills, you have to take the right one to do the right job.
Sleeping Pill Question #3: Would you take a sleeping pill in the middle of the night?
Dr. Oz states that 33% of his audience answered that they have taken a sleeping pill in the middle of the night and points out that this is actually a dangerous practice to engage in.
Dr. Breus and Dr. Radcliff elaborate on this by explaining that depending on the type of sleeping problem you have―such as continually waking up just a few hours before you have to get up for work―you should only use a medication that is designed for that particular problem. For example, if you have just a few hours left before you go to work you would not want to take a pill that is going to make you drowsy for several hours afterward—especially if you will be driving or operating dangerous machinery.
Dr. Radcliff tells viewers that by taking a sleeping pill in the middle of the night will result in the sleeping pill having its strongest effects just as it is time for you to get up and go to work, and thereby make for an unsafe condition and an accident waiting to happen.
“Think of this as being drunk or having a terrible hangover—you’re going to be hazy, drowsy or lethargic,” says Dr. Radcliff.
Dr. Breus points out that there are some prescription sleeping pills designed for middle-of-the-night use, but that the majority of the ones people use are those that are designed to be taken only at bedtime when you have a full 8 hours until you need to get up.
Sleeping Pill Question #4: Have you ever taken someone else’s sleeping pill?
“Twenty-six percent of the folks who were polled said ‘yes’” states Dr. Oz as he asks Dr. Radcliff why is it a problem when someone like a spouse takes the other spouse’s sleeping pills.
“When a doctor makes a decision to place someone on a sleeping pill, it’s based on symptoms, gender and weight,” says Dr. Radcliff who explains that it could cause the person who the medication is not prescribed for to have a bad reaction or an overdose. Furthermore, the spouse may be taking other medication(s) that will adversely interact with the prescription sleeping pill.
Sleeping Pill Question #5: Would you ever take a sleeping pill after eating a high-fat meal?
“Fatty meals delay the absorption of sleeping pills,” says Dr. Radcliff. “It can take up to a full hour or longer to get into your bloodstream and take effect and get you off to sleep.”
Dr. Oz explains that people who eat a fatty meal for dinner and then take a sleeping pill, often find themselves lying in bed afterward waiting for the sleeping pill to take effect and it doesn’t until much later in the night causing patients to believe that the pill they were prescribed doesn’t work.
Sleeping Pill Safety
According to Dr. Oz’s special guests, there are times when taking a sleeping pill is appropriate and beneficial as they add the following tips when it comes to taking sleeping pills safely:
• Take a sleeping pill if your routine is changed or if you are crossing time zones. Times of high stress such as going through a divorce is okay if sleep is evading you and interfering with your health.
• Try a new sleeping pill on a Friday night and in the presence of someone who can watch over you in case of a bad reaction. Taking a new type of sleeping pill on a Friday night gives you time away from work to discover how strongly the pill affects how you feel and you can perform the next day. Furthermore, if you have a bad reaction to the new pill, you will need someone who is awake and aware and can get you to a hospital fast.
• Use sleeping pills for a short time only, never longer than a month. Again, taking sleeping pills on a regular basis habituates your body and your mind to feeling that you have to have a sleeping pill in order to go to sleep. You can become addicted to OTC sleeping aids just as easily as prescription sleeping pills if you are not taking them correctly.
How to Avoid Needing a Sleeping Pill at Night
Sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus tells viewers that by eliminating what he refers to as “sleep wreckers” before you go to bed, may help prevent you from having to reach for a sleeping pill at night. His list of known sleep wreckers include:
• Reading in bed—Dr. Breus explains that reading in bed could interfere with falling asleep―particularly if you read non-fiction or work-related material that stimulates the mind rather than relaxes it. Also, he points to studies that have shown that the now-popular e-readers provide too much light too close to the face that can interfere with your normal light/night sleep rhythms.
• Having an alarm clock near the bed―Dr. Breus says that one habit people tend to have if they wake up during the night is to immediately look at the alarm clock to see what time it is and calculate how much sleep time they have left. This in itself agitates the mind because people then worry about needing to get back to sleep and then cannot. Put your clock somewhere out of sight so that you cannot see the time is his recommendation for falling back to sleep more easily.
• Removing makeup in a brightly lit bathroom―Dr. Breus recommends dimming the lights in the bathroom or using only a compact mirror light when removing your makeup before going to bed. When a bathroom is brightly lit it tells your brain that it is morning, which then suppresses the melatonin sleep hormone that you need in order to fall asleep.
• Making up for lost sleep on the weekends―If you try to catch up on your sleep by sleeping longer―or more than you should―on a weekend, Dr. Breus states that you may be making things worse for yourself sleep-wise during the workweek because you are interfering with your body’s normal sleep cycle referred to as your circadian rhythm. Adding on extra hours of sleep on the weekend can cause your cycle to get out of sync and lead to what he refers to as “Sunday Night insomnia” when people find it difficult to go to sleep the night before the workweek starts. He recommends sleeping in no more than one hour on a weekend day.
For more helpful information on sleeping pills and getting the rest you need, click on the two titled links “Dr. Oz Recommends Lettuce Opium Sleep Aid Rather Than Ambien” and “Dr. Oz and Dr. Weil Recommend 1 Natural Supplement over Melatonin as a Safer Sleep Aid” for selected sleep advice from both Dr. Oz and Dr. Andrew Weil.