Sleeping Pill Use and Insomnia on the Rise

If you were sleeping at 6:52am this past Sunday morning and didn't catch my Fox and Friends segment, you probably aren't one of the nearly 50% of Americans who struggles with insomnia.  A new study shows that use of sleeping pills is on the rise in the United States and with this increased use of sleeping pills comes more side effects.

Sleeping pills can be a godsend from time to time.  Getting over jet lag or redirecting your body's internal clock after a string of night shifts can be difficult.  But, pop a sleeping pill and you wake up feeling fresh and rested.  For most young, healthy people, occasional use of these medications isn't a problem, but for others there are risks.

Sleeping pills pose a danger to some who may act without even realizing it while taking these medications.  Incidents of sleepwalking and even sleep-driving have been reported.  Blood concentrations of sleep aids can remain high long into the morning hours causing people to drive to work still under the influence of sedating medications.  

Not only do sleeping pills have potentially dangerous side effects, they can cover up underlying medical issues causing you not to sleep.  Hyperthyroidism, for example, can lead to difficulty sleeping.  Sleep apnea results in poor sleep and, if left unaddressed, can lead to larger health problems like high blood pressure and stroke.

If you do suffer from insomnia, first rule-out an underlying medical issue.  This can usually be done through simple blood work and a sleep study.  Next, try a few "sleep-hygiene" tactics such as going to bed the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning.  Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening hours as these can disrupt sleep.  If you can't seem to regulate your internal clock on your own, a field of medicine called cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you identify problems with your sleep patterns getting you back on track.

In case you missed it, here's the clip!