Sleeping has always been a problem to many Britons. Stress, personal problems, and many other things affect’s one’s quality of sleep. In a recent survey by the Economic and Social Research Council, it was found that ONE in ten Brits takes sleeping pills regularly. This, according to some experts, is something people should be concerned about because sleeping pills do have dangers, and worst, they can be addictive.
Ian Singleton, 65, a senior project worker at Bristol Tranquilliser Project experienced troubles using sleeping medications. He became dependent on benzodiazepines – a group of drugs that reduces the period of time a person takes before finally falling asleep and extending the sleeping period. But after a month of continuous use, he started experiencing side effects he called ‘devastating’. He suffered from body pain, tightened stomach, anxiety, and even depression. When he quit cold turkey, he had an epileptic fit and was hospitalised for several months.
Effects of Sleeping Pills and its cost
There were 15.3 million prescriptions for sleep medications. In England alone, there were 5.4 and 2.8 prescriptions made for zopiclone and temazepam respectively. In the past four years, the prescription of sleeping medications in Britain raised by 10 percent, which cost the NHS additional 7 million pounds a year.
This, for Kevin Morgan, a professor of gerontology at the University of Loughborough, is no good news. He argued that the NHS should start training its staff to provide psychological therapies to help people deal with sleeping difficulties, rather than prescribing sleeping pills. According to Morgan, these medications can lead to drug dependency, medication-related accidents, and a huge increase in the cost of health services.
In the report by the Nuffield Health early this year, UK adults lost 378 million hours of sleep a week, all of them having an average sleep of 7.1 hours per night. According to the agency, the recommended sleeping duration should be eight hours. One impact of sleep deprivation, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, lack of sleep may cause the white blood cells to rally the immune system like the way they do when reacting to extreme stress. The effects can be observed even after a single restless night, found a brain-scan research at the University of California. It was also revealed that people who sleep less than 6 hours a day are more at risk of heart attack and infection even if they have normal weight.
Experts do not disregard the benefits of sleeping tablets in helping insomniac patients. According to Professor David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at the Imperial College, the goal of sleeping pills is to help people revive their sleeping patterns.
CBT – a long term solution for sleeping problems
Morgan suggests that CBT is a better, long-term solution for sleeping problems than medications. This therapy works on the basis of understanding the behavioural and mental factors that affect a person’s quality of sleep. He stressed that just five hours of CBT can provide benefits for 70% of cases. CBT also gives a person better sleep for more than one year, which those sleeping tablets couldn’t do.
Other than CBT, there are simple, alternative ways to promote sleepiness. Experts suggest understanding one’s own sleep rhythms and requirements. The goal is to set a regular bedtime schedule. It also helps to take a warm shower before going to sleep, lay on a clean, scented bed, do some relaxation techniques, read, or make love with your intimate partner.
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