Facebook Pixel

6 Ways to Avoid Risky Sleep Meds

Rate This
sleep-meds-can-pose-risks iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It’s the middle of the night. You’re tossing and turning, worrying about how you’re going to come up with this month’s rent now that they’ve cut your hours at work.

You reach for the sleeping pill that your doctor prescribed, but advised only to take when needed. Lately, you’ve been needing it every night.

A new study has discovered that people who take sleeping pills have a higher death risk than non-users. This is not good news if you’ve become dependent of your sleep medication.

“We are not certain. But it looks like sleeping pills could be as risky as smoking cigarettes," study researcher Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, MD, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, told WebMD. "It looks much more dangerous to take these pills than to treat insomnia another way."

If you suffer from insomnia or any other sleep related condition, your physician may have prescribed you with sleeping pills described as hypnotics. This includes such drugs as zolpidem (Ambien) or temazapam (Restoril), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), triazolam (Halcion), flurazepam (Dalmane), barbiturates, and older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine.

You need your rest, but you suffer from insomnia. How can you sleep without the aid of sleeping pills? Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Schedule your sleep.
It is possible to train your body to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, but it takes time. If you don't fall asleep within about 15 minutes after going to bed, get up and do something relaxing such as meditating or listening to soothing music. When you start to feel sleepy, get back to bed.

2. Create a relaxing atmosphere.
A room that’s cool, dark, and quiet is best for sleeping. Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable. Also limit pets and children in your bed whenever possible.

3. Avoid electronic devices.
Many people fall asleep with the TV in their bedroom, but this is not an effective sleep aid. A stimulated brain makes it harder to fall asleep, so check your email, social media, or answering phone messages earlier in the evening, before settling down for the night.

4. Limit napping.
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, avoid napping whenever possible. Daytime sleeping can throw off your nighttime schedule and mess up your internal clock. If, for some reason, you can’t keep your eyes open during the day, try a 20-minute power nap.

5. Develop regular physical activity.
Walking, playing a sport, or a workout regimen can promote better sleep, Try to schedule exercise earlier in the day if possible to avoid feeling too energized before bedtime.

6. Think before you eat and drink.
The discomfort of being hungry or stuffing yourself right before you go to bed might keep you awake. Limit your liquid intake as well to avoid getting up several times at night to use the bathroom. Alcohol and caffeine are notorious sleep-robbers.

Changing your lifestyle and creating new rituals are excellent alternatives to sleeping pills. But, if you are still having trouble falling asleep at night, speak with your doctor and discuss other safe options.


WebMD – Sleep Disorders - Sleeping Pills Called 'as Risky as Cigarettes'
Study Links Sleeping Pills to 4.6-Fold Higher Death Risk. Web. 5, March, 2012

Huffington Post – Healthy Living - Sleeping Pills Risks: Study Finds Increased Death Risk From Taking Hypnotics. Web. 5, March, 2012

Mayo Clinic – Adult Health - Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep. Web. 5, March, 2012

Reviewed March 5, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Sleep Disorders

Get Email Updates

Sleep Disorders Guide

HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!