Making Sense of Sleeping Pills

Q:  “I’ve been taking sleeping pills for about 10 years now, and am just so tired of being addicted.  What can I do?”

The first thing we suggest is asking your doctor what medical condition your prescription is treating.  Your doctor is most familiar with your medical history and specific conditions and so is the best person to answer this.  If the answer is there is no identifiable medical condition, only insomnia, then this suggests you are treating only the symptom and leaving the root causes unaddressed.

It’s important to understand that insomnia is invariably only a symptom.  It is not a medical condition in and of itself.  Instead, insomnia is a symptom 0f something else going on deeper that is causing the sleeping problems.

If your sleeplessness is caused by a legitimate medical or psychiatric condition (this is known as secondary insomnia), then you do have good reason to take prescription medication.  By treating the root cause, your sleep should improve.  Medical or psychiatric problems that can disrupt sleep include such conditions as obstructive sleep apnea, substance abuse disorders, restless leg syndrome, and clinical depression.

On the other hand, in the absence of an identifiable medical condition, many sleep experts take the position that sleeping pills may actually do more harm than good.  This is not only because the drugs are only treating the symptom, but also because pills tend to reinforce the perception that the solution to your problem is external and resides out of your self-control.

Although data is limited, national sleep surveys suggest only a tiny minority of us have secondary insomnia.  The vast majority of us with sleeping problems have what’s known as primary insomnia, which has no identifiable medical basis.

For most of us with primary insomnia, the root causes for our sleeping problems are typically some combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.  Stress and anxiety also play significant roles.  These issues can be addressed, but by themselves drugs typically won’t do it.

One of the very best methods to address primary insomnia, and to get to the nonmedical roots of the problem, is cognitive behavioral therapy specifically applied to insomnia (CBT-I).  CBT-I is a collection of common sense methods to improve sleep.  CBT-I has been clinically proven, and repeatedly, to be very effective at improving sleep.

Most people who try CBT benefit to some degree.  Many become normal sleepers again.

If you are taking sleeping pills and do not have an identifiable medical condition causing your insomnia, you too might benefit from a CBT-based sleep training program.  There are many ways to learn CBT methods — sleep doctors, professional counselors, and if you are the self-help type — books, and many online resources.

The Sleep Training System (STS) is an online, downloadable CBT-based sleep improvement program that is affordable and effective for better sleep.  The program combines CBT-I with powerful training methods to improve sleep.  The STS is safe, effective, has no side effects, and requires no drugs of any kind to work.

For more information on how the STS might help you, or to ask a sleep question, please feel free to contact us.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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