Cannabis vs. Sleeping Pills: Which Is Better For Sleep?
Sleep issues affect a staggering majority of the world’s population. In America alone, 40 million people suffer from chronic sleep disorders annually. Another 20 million suffer from occasional sleep problems.
If you think sleep issues such as insomnia are harmless, think again: constantly being drowsy and fatigued due to lack of sleep can lead to many health problems down the line including increased blood pressure and risk for heart attack or stroke. Sleeplessness and fatigue also disrupts your ability to think clearly and make decisions, putting you at risk when you’re driving or operating machinery. Insomnia is a serious problem, and one that needs adequate medical treatment.
However, there has also been a rise in over the counter (OTC) sleep aids as well as prescription drugs that are used to combat insomnia, such as benzodiazepines. While they do provide a temporary band-aid to the problem, these drugs have their own side effects especially when used in the long run – something they simply are not designed to do. Despite this, people continuously take harmful sleeping pills.
The safer ones, such as melatonin, work by helping the body regulate its natural melatonin production, but the problem with melatonin is that long-term use results in immunity to its effects. Additionally, if you’re taking other medications, it can also have an effect on medicines particularly birth control pills, blood clotting medications, cancer treatments, and more. So while melatonin can easily be purchased OTC, this doesn’t mean that anyone can take it without as much as a second thought.
The Problem With Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills come in so many forms, names, shapes, and sizes. Most of them can be classified as a sedative hypnotic. Lunesta and Ambien are among the most widely used prescription sleeping pills in the United States, with an average of 8.6 million Americans using Ambien from 2005 to 2010 alone. On top of that, one in every 6 Americans are given a psychiatric drug; Ambien is the most commonly prescribed, next to Zoloft, Xanax, and Celexa.
Additionally, barbiturates and benzodiazepines are extremely addictive. It’s so easy to develop a dependence on these drugs after using them for just a few weeks. A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology revealed that 47% of patients who were taking benzodiazepines for over a month already developed a dependence on the drugs. Once you stop taking them, you end up suffering from extreme withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, headaches, depression, even more sleeplessness, and in the worst case scenario, seizures.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, these sedatives also have a range of serious side effects. These include headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, fatigue, general weakness, and tingling in the extremities. Some forms of sleeping aids have been known to induce parasomnia, a type of sleeping disorder which causes erratic behavior during certain stages of sleep – without you knowing.
The side effects of other commonly used insomnia drugs include:
- Valium (Diazepam): suicidal ideation, seizures, paranoid ideation, birth defects (if taken by expecting mothers)
- Ambien (Zolpidem): drowsiness and dizziness the following day, behaviors and moods that you may forget the next day, and increased risk for developing certain cancers
- Sonata (Zaleplon): vision problems, reduced sense of smell, increased menstrual pain
- Oleptro (Trazodone): cardiovascular problems, increased risk of bleeding, decreased sodium levels
Why You Should Be Using Cannabis As A Sleep Aid Instead
Cannabis use poses no health risks, and it’s a safe, natural sleep aid. It won’t mess up your hormones, increase your risk for cancer (it cures it, how about that?), or make you walk in your sleep.
The right cannabis strains for sleep induce relaxation mentally and physically, allowing you to get into a state of even deeper, more restful slumber. It not only calms the mind, but eases any aches and pains you may have in the body, allowing you to wake up recharged and healed from the inside out. Even better, cannabis is completely safe for long-term use; unlike pharmaceutical drugs and other sleep aids.
That being said, everyone reacts to cannabis differently. But the good news is that there are so many excellent strains and products to choose from. If smoking isn’t your thing, you can opt to use edibles, vapes as a safer option, and even tinctures.