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How does taking sleeping pills affect my health?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Many people try to conquer sleep problems by taking sleeping pills or drinking alcohol at bedtime. While these quick fixes might produce short-term sleep benefits, in the long run they disrupt sleep. Regular use of these substances can confuse your circadian rhythm (your internal clock), which means that you may then need the drug if you are to sleep at all. Occasional use is usually not a problem. (For example, you can take melatonin supplements to help avoid jet lag during international flights. However, for some people, this increases asthma symptoms.) If you feel you need sleeping pills, talk to your doctor. Sleeping pills can be physically and psychologically addictive and may have long-term aging effects. In fact, a recent study found that people who used sleeping pills more than fourteen days a month had a RealAge (physiologic age) 1.9 years older, and that those who took twenty-nine or more a month were 2.8 years older. It is a good idea to use sleeping pills for only a limited time or to abstain from them altogether.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.