For instance, sleep researchers have found that older persons in general tend to sleep lighter, are more often disrupted by brief awakenings, and sleep duration is on average shorter by a half hour to an hour. By the time we reach 60, roughly half of us experience insomnia.
An increasing rate of change in culture and society – especially in how people work and recreate – also contribute to some sleep problems. The Institute of Medicine suggests some sleep loss can be attributed to such broad societal changes, including greater reliance on longer work hours, shift work, and access to nonstop television and the internet.
Many persons adapt to these social and physiological changes with no problem at all. Others develop some form of sleep problem, ranging from just an occasional restless night to severe and chronic insomnia that is debilitating to daytime functioning. Today close to 70% of all adults complain of some difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. Many just suffer silently through this, not knowing what to do.
Pharmaceutical companies have noted this well. A huge and lucrative market worth billions of dollars has been developed to sell you a good night’s sleep through pills. Today doctors write some 60 million prescriptions annually for sleep aids. These medications, while potentially useful for some, are also potentially addictive, possibly dangerous, and have sometimes severe, even frightening, side effects.
Some people who take sleeping pills report such bizarre and dangerous behaviors as sleep driving, sleep eating, and sleepwalking. One person awoke with a paint brush in her hand, having painted her front door in her sleep. Another set fire to her kitchen while trying to cook asleep. Another person crashed his car into a tree while sleep driving.
In all of these instances, the individuals were in a sleeping pill-induced haze and with no memory afterward. The FDA now requires Ambien, Lunesta and other such sedative-hypnotic drugs to carry strong warnings about possible side effects.
The most common side effect from sleeping pills is daytime drowsiness. We suggest that rarely, if ever, will a sleeping pill – prescription, over the counter, or even an herbal remedy for that matter – produce the kind of naturally refreshed and rejuvenated state of mind as you’ll get from a good night’s sleep achieved on your own.
More importantly, sleeping pills and herbal remedies inherently address only the symptoms, not the true root causes of insomnia caused by self-limiting thoughts and counterproductive behaviors that undermine good sleeping.