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Do You Need Sleeping Pills?

Three out of five Americans have trouble sleeping. In the search for a cure, as many as one in 10 adults in the U.S. turns to prescription drugs to get a good night's rest. But the results of a recent study may have them losing more sleep.

The study, published in BMJ Open, followed a total of 34,205 patients (both those who were taking sleeping pills and those who were not) over an average of 2.5 years. They found that people who used sleeping pills regularly were about five times as likely to die during the 2.5 year period. Even those who took fewer than 18 pills a year still had more than triple the risk of dying. The researchers even controlled for patients who were in poor health before beginning the study.

With this in mind, it's important that your doctor knows if you are using a sleeping aid. He or she can monitor your use to ensure that you are taking a safe amount and the pill isn't interacting with other medications you may be taking.

He or she may also recommend an alternative treatment that can help you feel more rested without the added worry.

When to Get Help

Whether you're currently taking sleep aids or not, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have sleep problems, such as:

  • Thinking you get enough sleep but still feeling tired during the day
  • Falling asleep during meals or conversations
  • Thrashing around and hurting yourself or your sleeping partner as you physically act out dreams
  • Starting a new medication and finding it affects your sleep
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

Here are a few questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  1. Could my prescriptions be interfering with my sleep?
  2. Should I get tested for sleep apnea or another sleep disorder?
  3. Is my sleep affected by another health condition? Should I get treated for that?

You should also be prepared to discuss the details of your sleep problems, including how often you have trouble sleeping, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and how refreshed you feel when you wake up. It's a good idea to keep a sleep diary before seeing a doctor to answer these questions more accurately.

Your doctor will be able to assess your sleep problems and determine if you need to take a sleep aid or if there are better treatment options for you. Getting enough sleep is vital to your health and well-being. Take the steps necessary to make it happen.

Sources: BMJ Open, Krames Staywell, Mayo Clinic, Sleep Foundation

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