New research reveals that repeated use of some commonly known over-the-counter sleep aids can be very dangerous to your long term health. This may strengthen the trend towards the use of natural sleep aids instead. According to a new study by Indiana University School of Medicine, traditional over-the-counter sleep aids are negatively affecting the brain, causing long-term cognitive impairment. In a six-year study, over 1600 African-Americans over the age of 70 were evaluated. Their over-the-counter and prescription medications were tracked.
The results were stunning. They found that taking one anticholinergic drug increased a person’s risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, which include gradual memory loss. Taking two of them doubled the risk! In other words, if you are consuming these drugs, you are literally destroying your brain. The researchers are next going to focus on finding out whether the impairment might be reversible, or whether the damage remains permanent.
What exactly are anticholinergic drugs? You can find them in your local drug store under the brands of Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and Unisom. Prescription versions include Paxil, Detro, Demerol and Elavil.
Even the most common side effect, memory loss, is not the only danger. In fact, the other active ingredient in Tylenol PM, acetaminophen (a widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic or NSAID) is said to be the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. Acetaminophen is responsible for 56,000 emergency room visits and 456 deaths annually, according to studies done between 1990 and 1998.
Acetaminophen is one of the most common pharmaceutical agents involved in overdose, as reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In the United States, acetaminophen toxicity has replaced viral hepatitis as the most common cause of acute hepatic failure, and it is the second most common cause of liver failure requiring transplantation in the United States.
Obviously, acetaminophen is not a bad drug. Most emergency room visits are due to overdose issues. People have the tendency to combine various drugs containing the same active ingredient, without realizing that it can lead to a life-threatening situation.
Are natural sleep aids safe? Categorically, yes. None of the commonly used ingredients in natural sleep aids made it to the recently published list of dangerous dietary supplements compiled by Consumer Reports. It is no wonder that people are turning to natural sleep aids to find a permanent and healthy solution to their occasional sleep problems.
The most common natural sleep aid is melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone. Circulating levels of melatonin vary during the course of the day. When it gets dark, the pineal gland of your brain starts secreting melatonin, and this helps you to become tired and fall asleep. Melatonin has very few potential side effects, but they are rare and minor compared to memory loss or liver damage. In various scientific studies, melatonin has been proven to cause very few, if any side effects in the short run (three months or less). In larger doses of more than three milligrams, some people get mild side effects such as headaches or morning grogginess.
But melatonin is not the only natural sleep aid available. In fact, you should find a natural sleep aid product that contains at least ten active ingredients. Why? If you take melatonin only, you may find it easier to fall asleep, but melatonin quickly wears off and does very little to help you stay asleep.
Similarly, chamomile extract contains a flavonoid called chrysin, which has been commonly attributed to chamomile’s ability to relieve anxiety. In other words, each natural component targets only one part of your sleep process. The more ingredients, the more synergistic and effective solution you have for your individual sleep problem and a complete good night’s sleep.
When choosing a natural sleep aid, make sure you find one with indium sulphate. It is a rare, but powerful trace mineral that appears to work with your brain’s HPA-complex, the sleep center. This is where indium sulphate regulates hormones that potentially interfere with sleep such as epinephine, adrenaline and cortisol. It puts the HPA-complex into a state of homeostatis or perfect balance, allowing complete relaxation and promoting deep and restful sleep.
By Jukka Tolonen
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