Sleeping pills harmful in long run

Updated: Aug 10, 2012, 13:28 PM IST

Sydney: Sleeping spills are "counter-productive" and offer no real benefit in treating insomnia, says a sleep expert.

"Most people who take hypnotic (sleep inducing) drugs still have poor sleep. It re-mediates the problem in the short-term but it almost always produces a long-term consequence, which is drug dependence," said Leon Lack, professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, 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," he was quoted as saying in a Flinders` statement.

"Effectively you buy a bit of sleep on your credit card but then you have to pay it back later, sometimes with interest, so in the long-term you don`t gain anything. You just offset the insomnia."

Insomnia is defined as persistent difficulties falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or both, resulting in impaired daytime functioning.

"What`s particularly frustrating to people with insomnia is that very few things work for them. So they feel a loss of control, depression and their quality of life is diminished," Lack said.

"But it is important for people to realise that sleep isn`t just one long, homogenous period of unconsciousness - we go through different stages of sleep, 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.

"During the light sleep stage, you`re likely to awaken - which is perfectly normal and increases with age - but the media`s constant reports about the importance of a solid eight hours sleep create anxiety and anxiety in the middle of the night is not conducive to sleep. So then it becomes ingrained," Lack said.

"If you don`t fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed then get up. Don`t lie there awake because that associates the bedroom with frustration and anxiety."

Difficulty falling asleep can also be caused by a delayed body clock, he said.