Sleeping Pills Raise Risk of Dying and Cancer

Do you or any of your friends take sleeping pills?  If so, you’re in good company.  About 6-10% of Americans use sleeping pills for better snoozing, and that number is on the rise these days.


A recent study conducted in the United States found that those who use sleeping pills were 4.6 times more likely to die within a 2.5 year time frame.  The study estimated that sleeping pills may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths in the United States alone in 2010.  Note:  This information establishes an association, not a cause, but it raises a major health concern.

Even more interesting is this observation:  the higher the dosage, the greater the risk of dying.  Those who took between 18 and 132 doses of sleeping pills per year were 4.5 times more likely to die than those who did not use sleeping pills.  Those who took under 18 sleeping pills per year were 3.5 times more likely to die than those who did not take any.  The take home message:  it doesn’t take many to put you at risk for dying earlier than you should.

Sleeping pills are also associated with a greater risk of cancer.  Those who used hypnotics (sleeping pills) had a 35% greater chance of being diagnosed with cancer.

Scared yet?  I hope so.  This is frightening information, considering the sheer number of people who use sleeping pills.  The solution lies in finding the root cause of insomnia and other sleep problems and teaching people better ways to sleep soundly.  Sleeping pills usually alter your natural sleep cycles, thereby robbing your body of the necessary steps it needs to fully restore itself (and research has shown that cutting out even one of your four sleep cycles can cause psychosis and even death).

Nearly 50% of insomnia cases are caused by stress and anxiety (compliments of the National Sleep Foundation).  The vast majority of other causes are likely related to hormonal or neurotransmitter imbalances which likely stem from stress or behaviors used to cope with stress.  For example, alcohol use in women typically alters our sleep behavior faster than it does in men.  Not only does it alter the sleep cycle, we typically suffer from early morning awakenings.  Other medications and street drugs can cause similar or worse sleep problems.

Underlying hormonal imbalance and vitamin deficits can sometimes be the culprit.  Hormonal factors are a big cause of sleep problems for women due to the fact that our hormones are intricately connected with our neurotransmitters.  Some women are more sensitive to these shifts than others, so slight changes can cause big mood or sleep problems for some women.

Nutritional deficits can be the underlying cause of sleep problems, too.  If you have severe deficits in major vitamin families like Vitamin B, you won’t be able to convert serotonin to melatonin for sleep at night.  Problems that cause Vitamin B deficits include chronic stress, smoking, medication use, and poor nutrition.

The answers are different for everyone, but it’s important to identify the root cause.  A good first step is healthy stress management:  good nutrition, exercise, and meditation.  A second step is  finding a great physician with a background in preventive or functional medicine who can run a series of blood tests to measure various hormones and vitamin levels.  You can also order your own hormone testing through Life Extension Foundation ( and take these to your physician.  High cortisol, low serotonin, or other imbalances can often cause insomnia.

The biggest problems can often be solved with one simple solution.  If you suffer from insomnia, consider taking these steps instead of relying upon sleeping pills.  Solving the real problem will help you get real, restorative rest and lower your risk of early death and cancer.

Read more on this study here.

That’s all from Boca Raton today, folks.  Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your sleep due to the fact that it decreases stress and rebalances your neurotransmitters.  Go for a 20 minute walk (at the very least) each day, or make like a rockstar and go to good Crossfit like The Station.  I’m really digging that place lately.  Ta-ta for now!