How many sleepers have you had in the last year?

As I sit aghast listening to Steve from Channel Ten’s The Project defend AFL and NRL football players for well known pharmaceutical use I am reminded of this blog I wrote 2 years ago.

To quote Steve “.. What dirty about having a sleeping tablet..”and “I think it’s a total over-reaction..”

Really Steve? Do you think that an extra 35% cancer risk in these young athletes is acceptable? I think we are too flippant about the use of NSAIDs, Sleepers and Relaxants. All of them have side effects. And some of the side effects lead to death. I think in healthy people that epitomise healthy living we need to question why they are so reliant on pharmaceuticals. I don’t want my children role modelling this as the “normal”or the öptimal”.

This is the blog…

This study has recently been released in the BMJ (British Medical Journal – one of the top 5 medical journals in the world).

It demonstrates that as little as 18 sleeping tablets per year, increases your death rate 4-fold!
The numbers were large (over 10,000 people) and for the BMJ to publish this study means the research paper is blue chip, is clinical significant (ie the results can be reproduced again and again) and was matched against a control.

Here is the summary.

Article focus

Estimate the mortality risks associated with specific currently popular hypnotics in a matched cohort design, using proportional hazards regression models.

Estimate the cancer risks associated with specific currently popular hypnotics.

Explore what risk associated with hypnotics can be attributed to confounders and comorbidity.

Key messages

Patients receiving prescriptions for zolpidem, temazepam and other hypnotics suffered over four times the mortality as the matched hypnotic-free control patients.

Even patients prescribed fewer than 18 hypnotic doses per year experienced increased mortality, with greater mortality associated with greater dosage prescribed.

Among patients prescribed hypnotics, cancer incidence was increased for several specific types of cancer, with an overall cancer increase of 35% among those prescribed high doses.

Strengths and limitations of this study

Design strengths included matching patient and control cohorts by age, gender and smoking. Through stratified statistical analyses, patients using hypnotics were matched with controls diagnosed with the exactly the same combination of 12 categories of comorbidity in up to 116 strata.

The major limitation was that residual confounding could not be fully excluded, due to possible biases affecting which patients were prescribed hypnotics and due to possible imbalances in surveillance.

Cohort studies demonstrating association do not necessarily imply causality, but the preferable randomised controlled trial method for assessing hypnotic risks may be impractical due to ethical and funding limitations.

The full study is here

My 10 cents worth:
While hypnotics (EG: temazepam, stilnox, restovite etc) are tempting to take as they get us to sleep, they are associated with risks and health issues.
Some can make you feel groggy the next day, which can be a problem if you drive, need to function at a high capacity. Most sedate you rather than augment the natural sleep process so you are “zonked out” and this means you don’t get the healing stage 3 and stage 4 sleep cycles. Stage 3 & 4 are vital for your body to heal.
Many of them are addictive as they belong to the benzo group and this group is also causes depression long term.


Try to find natural ways to “switch off”.

Here are my top 7:

1. Have a “body and mind it’s time to switch off” pattern before bed. Pack things up, brush your teeth, look in the mirror and say, “great day, and now it’s time to rest and sleep”

2. Have a relaxing bath with lavendar oil

3. Play relaxing music or listen to a relaxation or meditation DVD

4. No stimulants (coffee, tea, green tea or energy drinks after lunch time)

5. Avoid watching thought-stimulating TV before going to bed
6. Avoid going to bed with high alcohol levels

7. Avoid using hand held devices after 6pm. The light from iphones etc has been shown to disrupt your cortisol/melatonin levels and can lead to insomnia.