Saturday, July 15, 2006


Get Rid of Your Sleeping Pills NOW!

Cognitive behavioral therapy for six weeks may treat insomnia better than drugs, according to a study by researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway.

The study included 46 participants over the age of 55 who had suffered from insomnia for three months or more. The participants were randomly assigned to receive weekly 50-minute therapy sessions, a drug called xopiclone or a placebo for six weeks. It was found that:

  • Those who received therapy increased the time they spent in bed actually sleeping from 81.4 percent to 90.1 percent.
  • Those who received zopiclone had a decrease in sleep efficiency, from 82.3 percent to 81.9 percent.
  • Therapy participants spent more time in the deepest stages of sleep and less time awake at night than those who received zopiclone or placebo.

The researchers concluded that cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective than zopiclone for treating chronic insomnia. The therapy included education about lifestyle factors that influence sleep, such as sticking to a sleep schedule, as well as how to correct poor sleep habits and perform relaxation techniques.

Journal of the American Medical Association June 28, 2006, Vol. 295, No. 24: 2851-2858 (Registration Required) June 27, 2006

MSNBC June 28, 2006

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

Americans are taking more sleeping pills than ever before. Drug companies spent over $300 million in 2005 to advertise sleep aids -- a more than four-fold increase over 2004.

This is especially problematic as, like nearly all drug solutions, there are many potential dangers from taking sleeping pills.

More than 82 million Americans routinely have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. For those who have ever experienced a few sleepless nights in a row you are likely familiar with the feeling of desperation that sets in as you struggle to function during the following day.

If it's any consolation, you are not alone. Close to 40 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 15 reports they've experienced insomnia at least occasionally.

This is a serious issue because insomnia will affect your hormone levels, accelerate aging and has been named as the culprit in a variety of diseases including:

Methods to Help You Sleep

If you're suffering from insomnia it may be tempting to look to a pill for an immediate solution, but in the long-term the effects of these drugs are likely to be worse than those of the insomnia. Here are my top 11 suggestions from my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for those of you who are having sleep problems.

  • My favorites for insomnia are the Insight Brainwave Synchronization CDs. This is a great tool that seems to consistently work for the patients that I recommend it to. It is a CD that you listen to before you go to sleep at night.

    The CD plays out a phase of pleasant-sounding frequencies that resonate your brain to relaxation frequencies. It is very similar to meditation in that you achieve a deep delta wave state.

    The only major difference is that you achieve this state in a few sessions rather than many years of hard work. You might call this the lazy man's solution to sleeping well. It is one of my favorites, especially when used with the approaches described above

  • Energy psychology tools like EFT are powerful ways to normalize the stress and anxiety that is frequently at the root of much insomnia.
  • Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
  • Sleep in complete darkness or as close to it as possible. When light hits the eyes, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of the pineal gland and production of melatonin and serotonin. There also should be as little light in the bathroom as possible if you get up in the middle of the night.
  • No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even out of the house, completely. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. Also disruptive of pineal gland function for the same reason as above.
  • Wear socks to bed. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that this reduces night wakings.
  • Read something spiritual or religious. This will help to relax. Don't read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, as this may have the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might wind up unintentionally reading for hours instead of going to sleep.
  • Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be woken suddenly. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, they should be unnecessary. I gave up my alarm clock five years ago and use a dawn simulator, which switches from an alarm to a dimmer switch that gradually turns the light on to full intensity over 45 minutes. I just love it as it is so gentle, and if I need more sleep I get it without being startled or disrupting my adrenals. Almost like a real dawn.

  • Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful to keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. Personally, I have been doing this for 15 years but prefer to do it in the morning when my brain is functioning at its peak and my cortisol levels are high
  • Melatonin and its precursors. If behavioral changes do not work, it may be possible to improve sleep by supplementing with the hormone melatonin. However, I would exercise extreme caution in using it, and only as a last resort, as it is a powerful hormone. Ideally, it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night.

One should get blackout drapes so no light is coming in from the outside. One can also use one of melatonin's precursors, L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). L-tryptophan is the safest and my preference, but must be obtained by prescription only. However, don't be afraid or intimidated by its prescription status. It is just a simple amino acid.

  • Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver, which then secondarily backs up into your entire system and causes further disruption of your health.

    Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.

  • For 19 more tips, visit the "Guide to a Good Night's Sleep."


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