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Sleeping Pills Pose Addiction Threat

Researchers urge insomniacs to explore other ways of getting a better night.

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Can't sleep? Count sheep. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

08/10/12

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If you can't sleep, you may want to try counting sheep. Sleeping pills are known to be effective for short-term insomnia relief, but may cause long-term dependency problems, according to research from Flinders University in Australia. "Sleeping tablets provide short-term relief but when people stop taking them they might have a few bad nights and think they can’t sleep without taking the drug," says lead study author Professor Leon Lack. Many who suffer from insomnia report a lower quality of life, and even depression, which can perpetuate a cycle of depending on sleeping pills. “But it’s important for people to realize that sleep isn’t just one long, homogenous period of unconsciousness—we go through different stages of sleep," explains Lack, "from a deep sleep which lasts 80 to 90 minutes into a lighter, dreaming sleep, and over the course of a night we experience this pattern three or four times." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25% of Americans are not getting enough sleep—and 10% of these suffer from chronic insomnia. In Australia, stats say about one-third of the country suffers from sleep-related issues. Lack suggests practicing good sleeping habits to prevent insomnia—such as going to bed when tired, using the bedroom only for sleep, getting up if you cannot sleep, and reducing the amount of time spent in bed while awake. “If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed then get up,” he says. “Don’t lie there awake because that associates the bedroom with frustration and anxiety.”

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