Sleepless in the 21st Century: Why is Reliance on Sleep-Aids Growing?

sleepless-in-the-21st-century-300x199“It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog/It’s been a hard day’s night – I should be sleeping like a log.” The Beatles could not have possibly known that one of their hit singles would grow ever more relevant for today’s sleep-deprived masses.

These days it seems as though everyone has work on their minds – and when you consider that life has become much more complex and stressful over the past decade or so, it’s no wonder we’re so restless. So where has all our sleep gone? (And how can we get it back!)

Anyone with pharmaceutical training can confirm that for many people, a good night’s sleep can now be found at the bottom of a pill bottle – though, only those with clinical research training can truly understand the effects of the sleep medication that so many of us have grown accustomed to. Read on to find out more about the causes, treatments and effects of sleeplessness.

The Sleep Aid Solution

For many people, medication has become the standard solution for any and all health problems these days. We reach for pills when we’re sick, and of course when we’re having trouble sleeping.  And, with over-the-counter sleep aids available to the masses, and a wide range of prescription options too, it’s not surprising that millions of Americans are consuming sleep aids to combat chronic insomnia. This sleepless epidemic has also reached us here in Canada, as a report released by the World Association of Sleep Medicine states that 30 per cent of Canadian adults get less than 6 hours of sleep per night!

Is Sleep Worth The Risk?

Though sleep deprivation can be resolved temporarily by simply popping a pill, there are risks associated with a pharmaceutical dependency. In fact, a study in 2012 found that people who took prescription sleeping pills were almost five times as likely to die over two and a half years as those who did not. If you plan to take pharmaceutical courses, you’ll learn that sleep aid drugs are only approved for short-term use – however, our society tends to depend on them for much, much longer than just the occasional nap.

The Effects of Seeing Blue

If you’re one of the many people who find that reading a book or watching TV can sometimes help you relax before bed – you should think again, because these activities might actually be the cause of your sleeplessness! Studies have shown that devices that emit blue light (e-readers, laptops, flat screen TVs etc.) can actually disrupt your sleep patterns. Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have found that when exposed to the blue light of such devices, people feel less tired, spend less time in REM sleep, and produce less melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone). If you consider a 2013 study by BookNet Canada showing that one in five Canadians buy eBooks instead of print books, you can only imagine how many sleep-deprived Canadians there are today!

The Dangers of Sleeplessness

Though losing a single night of sleep might not seem as dangerous as crossing a busy street while blindfolded, continuous sleepless nights can actually cause both physical and mental health problems. People who are suffering from insomnia are more prone to illnesses and accidents (it’s been proven that fatigue can create impairments similar to alcohol). Lack of sleep can also lead to memory problems and trouble performing daily tasks. Long term insomnia however, can increase a person’s risk of developing a mental illness, and it might also lead to type two diabetes.

Do you know a tried and tested natural sleep aid?