Mental Health Matters: Use of sleeping pills increases risk of death
Those who read our column regularly know we connect proper amounts of rest and sleep with good mental health — and our suggestions to improve sleep have always centred around natural methods.
In fact, we steer attention away from the use of sleeping pills or other agents.
In a report issued by the British Medical Journal earlier this week, more concerns about sedative use have emerged.
People who use sleeping pills — even as few as four pills a year — have a three to five times greater risk of dying.
How this translates into numbers is that between 320,000 and 500,000 deaths a year in the United States alone are linked to use of sleeping pills in the class of drugs known as hypnotics, or hypnotic sedatives.
The risk of many diseases rises dramatically with the use of hypnotics and the risk increases with higher numbers of pills taken.
The cancer increase for people using sleeping pills was 35 per cent higher than the rest of the population, for example.
In some respects, this is not “news” because the first link to increased deaths and cancer incidents was made in the 1970s and 1980s — about the same time the link between cigarettes and cancer was being made.
About 10 per cent of the population has a sleep problem and almost 65 per cent of hypnotics are taken by women, according to researchers who followed more than 10,000 subjects for almost three years to draw their conclusions.
Although they cannot say the use of hypnotics caused the deaths, it is not a coincidence that so many sleeping-pill users die or are diagnosed with deadly disease.
So what are some of the safer, more natural ways to induce sleep?
Cherries are naturally high in melatonin and people who drank a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning and in the evening reported better sleep results.
Eating a cup of cherries is about the same.
Cod, tuna, shrimp and halibut are high in tryptophan, the same compound found in turkey that makes us sleepy.
Lemon-balm tea has been used for centuries and is seen as effective and safe, as are uses of sage and drinking chamomile tea.
All of these natural sleep inducers combined with regular exercise are seen as far more effective and safe than use of sleeping pills.
If you have an old family sleep remedy, tell us about it because sleep is one of the essential ingredients of good mental health.
Write to us at Kamloops@cmha.bc.ca and tell and because we always love to hear from you.