How Not to Cure Insomnia
Updated: Jul 8
People turn to sleeping pills or supplements in the hopes of overcoming their sleep issues, but in most cases, these things will never cure your insomnia.
Many people I talk to tell me that they don't like sleeping pills and there's a good reason for that.
Sleeping Pills Are Not Approved For Long-Term Use
Sleeping pills have never been tested nor approved for long-term use. This is despite the fact that two-thirds of people who take them, use them for a year or more, and a third take them for over five years. There has been no clinical research to show that using sleeping pills over a long period of time is more effective than a placebo at supporting your sleep.
Further, this lack of long-term testing means there is no information on the side effects of using sleeping pills for years or even decades. One potential long-term effect is an increased risk of mortality. A study of over a million people showed that those who took sleep medications every day had a 25% increased chance of mortality than those who didn't take them. That's like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!
Sleeping Pills Just Don't Work That Well
When compared to a placebo, sleeping pills reduced the average time to go to sleep by barely 10 minutes and only increased total sleeping time by about 10 minutes. Taking a drug every day for an extra 20 minutes of sleep doesn't seem worth it.
Additionally, many drugs that are prescribed for sleep today are being used off-label and are often developed to treat anxiety or depression, not insomnia. This means many people are taking prescription drugs that have never been tested to see if they're better than a placebo for helping you to sleep.
Melatonin is NOT a Sleep Inducer
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, it's not meant to make you drowsy. It's not from nature - not an herb, a vitamin, or a mineral. When you buy melatonin, you're buying a synthetic hormone.
Since it's sold in health food stores, it's not regulated for quality, and it's never been tested to prove that it actually helps you sleep. Often these supplements are 3 - 10 times the dose that your body actually needs.
Sleep Medications and Supplements Just Don't Work
These remedies are very limited in their ability to help us because they only treat the symptoms and not the cause of insomnia.
And for anybody who has been using sleeping pills or other supplements for some time, will tell you that they're inconsistent at best, but they become addictive because we believe that if we don't take them, we definitely won't sleep.
Sleeping pills are meant to be taken for short bouts of insomnia caused by stressful life events, such as a death in the family, divorce, or health crisis. And even in these cases, they should only be taken in the smallest dose possible, for a short time (less than three months), and never on consecutive days.
Finally, melatonin will not make you sleepy, so if you are going to try it you need to take it about 90 minutes before you try to go to sleep and you shouldn't use it longer than a few months.