2. Why Sleeping Pills Fail!

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More than 15% of Women 50+ take sleeping pills regularly despite strong evidence they're risking cognitive decline, cancer, infection, and earlier mortality.

You may be wondering: What can possibly be wrong with a pill that helps me get more sleep?

Here’s the surprising answer: Sleeping pills don’t actually help you sleep!

The main problem with sleeping pills?

Probably most people think a sleeping pill is a pill that puts you to sleep.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. Pharmaceutical science has no drugs that induce natural sleep. Instead, we have the sedative-hypnotics — commonly called ‘sleeping pills’.

Sleeping pills belong to a class of drugs called sedatives. A sedative is a medication or substance that induces states of relaxation, calm, drowsiness.

But sedation is not natural sleep.

For example, alcohol is also classified as a sedative. If a woman happens to drink too much wine, she eventually enters a state of relaxation and calm. She becomes increasingly drowsy, losing consciousness.

An onlooker might say she is now sleeping, but that’s not true of her brain. Yes, the brain has been ‘sedated’ by the alcohol, but her brain isn’t engaged in the complex processes of natural sleep. A sedated brain is not a sleeping brain.

In the morning, this woman will have missed the full benefit of a night of natural sleep.

Your brain is very active as you sleep. Sleep results from a series of brain processes that cycle repeatedly throughout the night.

For example, exciting new evidence shows that the sleeping brain actively cleanses itself every night, flushing away the toxins related to Alzheimers disease.


Being unconscious — unaware, unawake — is not the same as actually sleeping. Sleeping pills might help a woman become unaware — ‘sedated’, but still the pill interferes with her natural sleep.

For example, a 2015 research paper examined the effects of sleeping pills on brainwave activity during sleep.

Study participants were women & men, ages 55-64. Each participant took a single dose of a popular sleeping pill (Temazepam or Zolpidem) before bedtime. (Zolpidem is often called Ambien. Temazepam is Restoril.)

Researchers monitored the brain waves of participants as they slept. They discovered that “temazepam and zolpidem significantly reduced slow-wave activity compared with placebo”.

That finding is crucial -- slow-wave sleep is the time when your brain most actively cleanses itself!  We all need plenty of slow-wave sleep.

Could this reduction in slow-wave sleep explain why sleeping pills are connected to a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease? Do these pills interfere with the brain's self-cleansing?  Research continues.

Life after sleeping pills

Let’s get optimistic next week.  Science shows us safer ways to improve sleep without medication — and many people say their sleep got better after ending sleeping pills!

But we’ll also look at some of the reasons many women find it so hard to give up sleeping pills. We’ve got answers here too.

To your natural happiness!




Randomised clinical trial of the effects of prolonged-release melatonin, temazepam and zolpidem on slow-wave activity during sleep in healthy people; Emma L. Arbon, et al; J Psychopharmacol Jul 2015