Sleep problems, known as insomnia, are some of the most common health complaints, with about 30% of people who would say their sleep is problematic. Ten percent of the population has insomnia (1). Technically, insomnia is defined as having significant problems falling and/or staying asleep for at least one month, and these problems can cause us trouble with daily life and stop us from feeling our best.
Why Do We Need Sleep?
Sleep problems make it hard for our bodies to repair, detoxify, lose weight, balance blood sugar and digest. Studies have also shown inadequate sleep lowers natural killer cells, which are the immune cells that fight cancer (2). One study suggests that our ability to fight viruses like the common cold decreases 300% when we get less than 7 hours of sleep (3).
Do Sleeping Pills Increase My Risk of Death?
In 2008, over 56 million sleeping medications were prescribed in the US (4), and most experts believe the stress from worldwide economic challenges have only increased these numbers. While these pills can help us fall and stay asleep, it is known that these medications do not allow the body to fall into the deep phases of sleep that allow for the best health benefits sleep can give us. It is also well-known that all of these medications have the risk of dependence and withdrawal effects, which can make them hard to stop using.
Most alarmingly, a large study of 30,000 people published in the February 2012 issue of the British Medical Journal found a 300% increase in death in people who took fewer than 18 sleeping pills a year. Higher doses were linked to a greater than 500% increase in death. The authors of this study concluded that these sleeping drugs “may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths in the USA alone.”(5)