A good night sleep is something everyone long for. We’re all happier for a good night sleep, however, a new research has suggested that prescribed sleep medication may not ease insomnia when it’s taken long-term.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), insomnia has affected up to a 30 per cent population of adults, with chronic sleep problems linked to depression, pain and heart disease, among other conditions.
Patients may be prescribed “benzos” like Valium or Xanax to combat insomnia, but studies have only demonstrated their effectiveness when taken for several weeks or months.
To better understand the prescriptions’ longer term impact, medics from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analysed 238 middle-aged women who had been prescribed sleep medication. They were compared with 447 women who endured similar sleep issues, but had not been issued a prescription.
When assessed one and two years later, “sleep disturbances” were similar between the two groups.
The medics analysed participants of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation.
At the start of the study, the women – average age 49 – reported their sleep quality on any given night on a scale of one to five.
Women in both groups reported finding it difficult to fall asleep on one in every three nights, on average.
All the participants also claimed to wake frequently on two out of three nights. More than seven in 10 also claimed to have disturbed sleep at least three times a week.
After one year, the average score for difficulty nodding off was 2.6 among those on prescribed sleep pills, as reported in the journal BMJ Open. This compared to 2.3 among the women who did not take the medication.
Those who were prescribed sleep pills scored 3.6 when it came to waking frequently in the night, versus 3.5 among the participants not on the medication.
“Early morning awakening” was scored at 2.8 in the prescription group and 2.5 among those not taking the drugs.
The results were “consistent” at the two-year follow-up, “without statistically significant reductions in sleep disturbance in medication users compared with non-users”.
The study was observational, and therefore does not prove cause and effect.
Around half of the women were also current or ex-smokers, while one in five were moderate to heavy drinkers, both of which can affect sleep.
Data on sleep prescriptions was collected every one or two years, with no information reported in between.
Sleep quality was also self-reported, rather than measured “objectively”.
Nevertheless, the medics concluded: “Sleep disturbances are common and increasing in prevalence.
“The use of sleep medications has grown, and they are often used over a long period, despite the relative lack of evidence”.
The Mayo Clinic, has outlined the risks and side effects of sleeping pills, recommends lifestyle change as the best solution for insomnia. Lifestyle is part of the answer, and many people need to make lifestyle changes. It’s helpful to have balance between challenge and relaxation, focus and rest. This is not something that just “happens” to lucky people, but rather something you create.
But for most people it’s not your lifestyle choice or the amount of stress you face that determines how good you feel or how well you sleep. Stress, if you know how to manage it, can motivate, energize, and build resilience. Short bursts of stress can even be physically and emotionally healing.
The secret to managing stress is in how you interpret it, what you focus on, and whether you have the understanding and skill to go through it in a healthy way.
Audio recordings are another resource. Gospel messages is another recording that encourages sleep.