Insomnia and sleeping pills



IF YOU TAKE SLEEPING PILLS or antihistamines regularly to help you sleep, this webpage is for you. Almost every one of my books contains a chapter on the negative health effects of taking medication that treats a symptom (like pain or insomnia) versus taking corrective or supplemental medication (like taking thyroid medication for hypothyroidism).

I often hear from new patients that they take pills almost every night for their insomnia. I can’t stress enough how taking pain relievers, antihistamines, and/or sleep aids on a regular basis is not healthy in the long run. 

After my patients learn to move their body more often throughout the day, eat healthier, avoid their personal emotional triggers, avoid overstimulation in the evenings, and get into a regular nighttime routine, they often find they no longer need to take medication for their condition(s). I hope the advice in this book helps you feel well enough that you no longer need your medication! 

Why an Easy Solution Can Be Harmful

The fast and easy path for relieving insomnia is to take sleeping aids, but it is also the path to a shorter lifespan. When you take a sleep aid every night, your body adapts and is able to better process the sleeping pill, making it less effective for your insomnia. As a result, you have to take stronger and stronger doses to achieve the same effect over time, harming your organs more and more until something fails and you become seriously ill and die before your time. Furthermore, as you become more dependent on sleep aids, you lose your ability to fall asleep naturally because your brain becomes more sensitive to irritations that keep you awake.

Hypnotic drugs are often prescribed to treat insomnia. The side effects of such drugs are very hard on the liver and kidneys, and can lead to dependence, organ failure, and early death. 

New research is tying prescription sleep aids like zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and temazepam (Restoril) to cancer.[1]

For those taking Benadryl (a sedative antihistamine) on a regular basis to help fall asleep, consider this: Research has shown a correlation between taking Benadryl on a regular basis and dementia.[2] 

According to Matt Andry, MD, Benadryl has a half-life of 8–10 hours, meaning when you take a dose, its effect on your body will be halved in 8–10 hours. So if you take a 50-milligram dose at night (say at 10 p.m.), your peak blood level is around 80 Ng/mL, and the level of Benadryl in your system will still be 40 Ng/mL at 8 a.m. Most people are drowsy above 30 Ng/mL!

At 8 a.m., you will still have enough Benadryl in your system to make you feel drowsy while you are driving to work. This amount of Benadryl in your system has the same effect on the body as 8 ounces of alcohol. This is like driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.10,[3] well over the legal amount when it comes to alcohol.

Indeed, I know people who take several OTC (over-the-counter) pills every day and have for years. But some people get away with smoking for years and never develop cancer or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This does not mean smoking is safe. In the same way, people who take OTC’s every night do so at a cost to their overall health. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to have access to medicines; they definitely have their uses. But America has a problem with overprescribing drugs. As an example, 99 percent of the world’s Vicodin is prescribed in the United States.[4] 

I have treated many people who were taking so many medications that they had to keep a written list of them. Some of these drugs were prescribed to treat the side effects of the medications they were taking for their original complaint. Some medications affect sleep, so a sleeping pill is often added to the list. Sadly, instead of curing their condition, the medications were muting the symptoms of their disease. After educating these patients about lifestyle changes and herbal remedies, I helped them get off many of their medications (with their medical doctor’s approval).

Medication is great for the short term because it offers a quick fix, but long-term use of chemicals is unhealthy. Prolonged use of medication leads to a decrease in quality of life. Such patients may be able to fall asleep with a pill, but do they get quality sleep? And at what cost to their body?

Finding Better Solutions

 So how do you balance the benefits of falling asleep that sleep aids offer with their potential harmful effects? Honestly, you can’t. If you are taking sleep aids regularly, stop!

If you are suffering from insomnia, find the root cause and treat it through diet, stretches, exercises, meditation, and other psychological tools instead of chemically forcing sleep. This approach is far healthier in the long run.

Yes, you will feel awful for a few weeks as you find other ways to treat your insomnia, but tough it out. Once your body re-acclimates to a healthier lifestyle, you will sleep better, and even if you lay awake at night, you may not need a sleeping pill to go back to sleep. 

To learn more about the drawbacks of taking sleeping aids, check out

[1] Kripke, Langer, and Kline, “Hypnotics’ Association with Mortality or Cancer,” Pharmacology and Therapeutics Research.

[2] Gray et al., “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia,” JAMA Internal Medicine.

[3] Stephens, “Doctor’s orders,” Herald Palladium.

[4] Vicodin Addiction, “Nearly 100 Percent of the World’s Vicodin Prescriptions Are Used in U.S.”

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565 N Walnut St,
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812) 336 - 2423

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