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{7} september 27, 2009

Health debate

Sleeping tablets

SHOULD YOU TAKE THEM OR NOT?

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AS A GENERAL RULE, it is better to avoid taking sleeping tablets and instead rely on more natural methods of promoting regular, good-quality sleep. This sort of drug-free, lifestyle-modification approach is often referred to as “sleep hygiene”, where the emphasis is on minimising factors that decrease sleep quality and maximising those that are conducive to sleep. Key factors include minimising intake of caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants; maintaining regular sleeping and waking times; going to bed when you feel tired; exposing yourself to natural light during the day to help set your body clock; doing regular physical activity, but preferably not too close to sleep time; practising relaxation THE DOCTOR exercises and creating a good sleep environment that is dark, quiet and free of distractions. One of the many problems with Dr Cindy Pan sleeping pills is that you can become reliant on them. Not only may continued use result in you being unable to sleep without them, but you may find yourself needing ever-increasing doses. In addition, the quality of sleep achieved when taking sleeping pills is often poor and you may feel groggy during the day. There is also the problem of rebound insomnia, where, once you stop taking sleeping tablets, you find falling asleep harder than ever. While there may be some instances where short-term use of sleeping pills may be useful (such as when travelling across time zones or working night shifts), in most instances it is better to avoid them. If you are having difficulty sleeping, discuss the issue with your doctor, who may be able to remedy the underlying problem, be it physical, emotional, psychological or lifestyle-related. Unfortunately, using sleeping pills, while seeming a quick fix, can in the long term create more problems than it solves. ■ Dr Cindy Pan has had over 10 years of clinical practice. Her books include Pandora’s Box: Lifting The Lid On Life’s Little Nasties (HarperCollins) and Playing Hard To Get (HarperCollins). She appears on television, lectures and speaks about all aspects of health, relationships and wellbeing.

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SLEEP IS ONE OF OUR greatest gifts. During sleep we rebuild, refresh and repair our bodies. Sleep is essential to enable us to function and enjoy life. When you’re not getting enough sleep, or if your sleep isn’t as restful as you’d like, a sleeping pill seems like the best answer. But is it really? Sleeping tablets perpetuate a vicious cycle of dependence. Each time you take a sleeping pill you’re continuing the spiral of need and preventing your body from regulating itself. Let’s consider a typical example. You have a rough day at work and lie in bed, tossing and turning. The next morning you vow that if you don’t sleep well that night you’ll take a sleeping pill – just this once. So the next THE NATUROPATH night, the same thing happens and you take the pill, an only to find that you wake up groggy and low. As the tm ch He ah Le next evening approaches you find yourself wired and agitated so you take another one. And so the cycle begins. Perhaps it would be better if you looked at what was causing the insomnia in the first place. Maybe you drank too much caffeine and over-stimulated your body. Or maybe you overworked your mind at work, sat in front of the TV when you got home and never moved your body. A simple walk at night can clear your head. Perhaps you’ve been over-stimulated with iPods, computers and mobiles. Sometimes a simple relaxation exercise, a warm bath before bed or even drinking a cup of chamomile tea and just sitting and letting it all go is enough to help you sleep. If not, see a professional and look at options, but don’t resort to the pill cycle. It’s not worth it.

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■ Leah Hechtman is a naturopath and fertility specialist. She is a lecturer, author, researcher and industry consultant and has her own clinical practice in Sydney, NSW. She specialises in fertility, reproductive and psychological health. For more information visit www.naturalhealthfertility.com AVAILABLE AT ELIZABETH STREET, BONDI JUNCTION, BOURKE STREET MALL, QUEENSPLAZA, ROBINA TOWN CENTRE, RUNDLE MALL AND HAY STREET MALL TSD7446/BS


Sleeping tablets