A sleep scientist doesn't recommend sleeping pills

A sleep scientist doesn’t recommend sleeping pills

Sleeping pills? Not so fast

For millions of Americans, one of the biggest obstacles of the day (or in this case, the night) is getting a good sleep.

Many are tempted by the quick-fix of taking sedatives or hypnotic medications — fancy words for sleeping pills. If you do this often, you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2013 that about 4% of US adults older than 20 used a prescription sleep aid in the past month of their study.

But unless you have a diagnosible sleep disorder such as insomnia — which actually isn’t as common as many think — sleeping pills are a bad way to go, according to sleep scientist Patrick Fuller, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School.

“I’m not a basher of hypnotics, because I think that they can play a particularly important role in people who do have true insomnia,” Fuller told Tech Insider. “But for the most part, I think most people that are taking hypnotic medications actually don’t need them and should work to get off of them.”

One reason to avoid hypnotic sleep meds is that once they travel from your blood into your brain, they tend to act erratically.

“They’re not this cute little thing that comes in and targets a little cell in your brain that’s just all involved in sleep,” Fuller said. “These drugs are not that specific; they affect not just the brain, but the peripheral systems as well.”

According to Drugs.com, Ambien — one of the most popular prescription sleep drugs — can cause a host of crummy side effects including drowsiness, headache, muscle aches, stuffy or runny nose, memory loss, double vision, diarrhea, swollen neck glands, voice changes, forgetfulness, belching, body aches… the list goes on.

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