If you suffer from insomnia, there is a high chance that you will have either tried or been recommended to use some form of sleeping medication. In fact, 86% of all Sleep School clients have been prescribed sleeping pills as a solution to their sleeping issues. Unfortunately for all of them, taking sleeping pills was not the miracle cure that they were hoping for, and in many cases it actually worsened their sleeplessness over time.
Why you should avoid taking sleep medication
The main reason why you should avoid taking sleeping medication is that it diminishes your trust in your natural ability to sleep. It’s important to remember that good sleepers don’t need to do anything to fall asleep and that notions such as ‘I won’t sleep unless I take my pills’, can be precisely what’s keeping you awake. The truth is that the very sight of a bottle of sleeping pills on your bedside table can feed your sleep anxiety and increase the likelihood of you experiencing insomnia in the long-term. In addition, sleeping pills do not provide natural sleep. Causing shortages of both deep and Rapid Eye Movement sleep phases, they cause you to wake up feeling unrefreshed, despite having slept for, perhaps, 8 hours.
Furthermore, many individuals report waking up with side effects such as grogginess and nausea, and research has shown that sleeping medication can even lead to an increased risk of death.
Another often overlooked point is that sleeping pills were only ever designed for short-term use, with most treatments lasting no longer than 4 weeks (see NICE guidelines).
The Sleep School tips for coming off sleep medication
If you find that you have become reliant on sleeping medication, perhaps it’s time to consider coming off of it. Below you can find the Sleep School’s tips for doing so – please bear in mind, however, that if you have been taking prescribed medication you should ALWAYS consult your doctor first to discover the best exit strategy for your particular prescription.
Don’t make any changes for at least 4 weeks. If you heavily rely on sleeping medication, take time to prepare for the possibility that your insomnia might worsen as you try to come off it. Invest some time into exploring drug-free options that can help you in your journey. Here at the Sleep School, we have developed the perfect drug-free tools to help you, and you can learn all about them here.
Don’t go cold turkey. The best rate of withdrawal for most sleeping medication is gradual. For example, reducing it by 25% less every two weeks allows for you and your body to gently adapt to its absence, both psychologically and physiologically.
Don’t do it alone. Telling a friend or family member about your decision to come off sleeping medication can help make it official and therefore increase your chances of staying on-track. Furthermore, you might find that at times it can get tough, and having someone to support and comfort you can truly make all the difference.
Allow for flexibility. Life has an annoying way of making it hard for us to stick to our plans, and that’s something you should account for. If you find that you’ve been knocked off course, it’s important to overcome your frustration and adjust your plan accordingly. You might have to start again in a week or so, once circumstances have changed for the better. The truth is that if you’re aiming for a lifetime of good quality natural sleep, a week or two will not make a difference. Just remember why you wanted to come off sleeping medication in the first place, and you’ll find all the motivation you need to start working on your plan as soon as possible.