According to sleep scientist Patrick Fuller, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, sleeping pills are not as helpful as you may think. Known as hypnotics or sedatives to the medical community, sleeping pills are used by many as a quick-fix guarantee for getting good sleep.
"I'm not a basher of hypnotics, because I think that they can play a particularly important role in people who do have true insomnia," Fuller told Tech Insider. "But for the most part, I think many people taking hypnotic medications actually don't need them and should work to get off of them… it's just a cheap fix. And it's not the right fix."
If you do not have a diagnosed sleep disorder such as insomnia, then sleeping pills are a bad solution if you are looking for quality sleep for the following reasons:
• Sleeping pills cross the blood-brain barrier where they interfere and cause drowsiness, memory loss headache, double vision and forgetfulness
• Once they are beyond the brain they act erratically on every cell in the body causing muscle aches, stuffy or runny nose, diarrhoea, swollen glands, voice changes and even belching!
• Women should take far lower doses than men as it takes their bodies longer to process the drug’s active ingredient, zolpidem. This can cause fatal accidents if women drive while under its effects the morning after taking their sleeping pills.
• Sleeping pills are highly addictive- once you start taking them to help you sleep it is difficult to stop as any sleep issues will worsen when you stop taking the pills.
Fuller recommended waking up at the same time every day, avoiding caffeine six hours before bedtime, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol at night, avoiding smartphone and e-reader screens in bed, and setting the sleeping mood.
Could it be that your old, uncomfortable mattress is robbing you of precious sleep? Before you start taking sleeping tablets, give your bedroom an audit. How old is your mattress? (mattresses should be replaced every 8 to 10 years.) Is it still comfortable? Do you have black-out curtains? Do you keep electronics (like TVs and mobile phones) out of the bedroom?
If it's time to invest in a new bed, visit the Sealy website to see our range of mattresses.