Sleeping Pills Aren't the Answer
As many of you know I have written about the benefits of sleep on health and performance many times. On the back of my latest post about sleep and injuries, I have heard something along the lines of "I should take some sleeping pills then" or "my sleep is fine now because I take sleeping pills". This would be the worse thing you can do. Luckily I have recently read a fair bit on sleep and I could give a decent answer as to why I wouldn't recommend this. Now I am not a doctor so this was purely what I would do. Lets make that clear.
Sleeping pills don't induce natural sleep. Sleeping pills have more of a sedating effect, they don't really assist you into sleep. It is very similar to alcohol. This is why many people experience next day grogginess , and there are many side effects to sleeping pills such as daytime forgetfulnes, performing actions at night of which you are not conscious, and slowed reaction times during the day that can impact motor skills, such as driving, as Matthew Walker explains in his great book on sleep.
It is better not to start sleeping pills at all. There is a thing called rebound insomnia where you suffer far worse sleep once you stop taking the sleep medication then before you started. Matthew Walker mentions a study where there was no objective benefit of sleeping pills beyond that which a placebo offered.
On top of this Dr. Daniel Kripke looked at the likelihood of disease and death across a two and a half year window and found that those taking sleeping pills were 4.6 times more likely to die over this short time period than those who were not using sleeping pills. He also found that the risk of death increased with the more sleeping pills you used. If user took 132 pills per year they were 5.3 times more likely to die over the study period than those that weren't using any sleeping pills. Even thos who only took sleeping pills occasionally still increased their risk of death, taking 18 pills a year still increased the risk of dying by 3.6 times.
Now I am not sharing this information to scare people but I think it is great information to share so you can make more informative decisions about your health. Before reading this work I would not have known all of that. I knew sleeping pills weren't great for you so I would not have taken them or told people they were good to be on. I knew that much but now I understand about it more in depth and some of the mechanisms as to why.
Keeping a regular sleep and wake time, staying away from electronics of a night, blocking out blue-light, doing a grateful log or some journaling, making your room pitch black, ensuring optimal magnesium status, all of these things and many more we have spoken about are going to serve you much better than looking for the quick fix in the pill. It takes some discipline to set yourself routines but the rewards are well worth it.