If you’re a senior, the next time you’re in a room with two of your peers look around. One of you is likely taking something to sleep at night.
Because according to recent research from the University of Michigan, one in three older Americans is taking a sleep aid.
Sleeping pills raise risk for dementia and death
And despite repeated warnings that they aren’t safe for seniors, many of those folks turn to affordable, over-the-counter anticholinergic drugs (try saying that three times fast) to get their zzzs.
But they might be getting a whole lot more than they bargained for when they do. Because sleep aids that use the active ingredient you find in allergy meds like Benadryl—an antihistamine called diphenhydramine—could send your risk for dementia skyrocketing.
Or worse, they could KILL you. Because experts say, regular users have a significantly higher risk of an early death, too.
Prescription sleep drugs pose serious dangers
But the hazards don’t end there. Alarmingly, one in 10 seniors admit to taking a prescription sleep drug. And despite having their doctor’s blessing, these drugs pose some serious dangers too.
Studies have uncovered links between sleep drugs and a higher risk of cancer, heart attack and an early death. And seniors are at an even higher risk for certain side effects.
In one study seniors taking the sleep drug zolpidem had a 58 percent jump in their risk for falling. And another study linked sleeping pills to a 50 percent jump in dementia in older folks.
But regardless of your age, sleep drugs could be putting you in grave danger.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that the heaviest users of prescription sleep drugs are five times as likely to DIE. And even more modest users—taking just 18 pills year—have a 3.6 times higher risk of dying.
The truth is sleeping pills are far too dangerous to take on a regular basis. They should only ever be used short term.
Ditch the risky sleeping pills drugs and go natural instead
But with 46 percent of people polled saying they have trouble falling asleep one or more nights a week, it’s no wonder that so many folks are still using them. If you’re one of them, it’s time to ditch the sleep drugs.
For help getting some shuteye, don’t turn to dangerous meds. Natural sleep aids can help you get your zzzs, without the serious dangers.
Start by turning your bedroom into a comforting sleep cave. Far too many of us are using our sleeping spaces for activities that don’t belong in the bedroom.
If you’re doing some work from home, leave it outside your bedroom door. If you’re fond of watching some TV at night stick to the living room or den. And if you like to surf social media shut it down at least an hour before you tuck in.
Ban electronics from the bedroom. Hang some blackout shades if the room isn’t dark enough. And drop the temperature by a couple of degrees if it’s too warm.
Swap your sleeping pills for a supplement instead
Then, if you find you’re still having trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, a natural supplement could be the solution.
Following are three good ones to consider…
If anxiety is behind your trouble slipping off to sleep, Grandma’s solution for conquering frayed nerves, chamomile tea, is the perfect solution. The chamomile plant contains the bioflavonoid apigenin, which experts tell us a natural anxiety soother.
In one study, chamomile significantly slashed anxiety in nearly 60 percent of users. You can brew up a cup of chamomile tea and sip it before bed. Or, if you prefer, take a supplement instead.
Drowning in stress and desperate for some shuteye? The herb valerian could be the answer. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and unable to sleep, valerian can relieve stress and help you return to your regular sleep schedule.
Volunteers taking valerian dozed off faster, and woke up less often, than those taking a placebo did. And in another study, a stunning 90 percent of users slept more soundly.
Experts believe valerian targets the same receptors in your body that the calming neurotransmitter GABA does.
Your body produces melatonin on its own. It’s responsible for your normal wake and sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm. Known as the sleep hormone, the pineal gland in your brain begins to pump out melatonin in the evening to help you get to sleep and stay asleep all night long.
But if you find yourself struggling with an occasional bout of insomnia, a little extra melatonin in the form of a supplement could help you get your sleep cycle back on track. And for older folks whose bodies often produce less of it as they age, melatonin can be particularly effective.
Don’t risk dementia or death for a good night’s sleep. Forget the dangerous sleeping pills and try the natural approach instead.