Medication nation: Women abusing sleeping pills

BACKGROUND:  A third to half of Americans experience insomnia or complain about lack of sleep.  The National Sleep foundation found that 30% of all women in America use some sort of sleep aid. Sleeping pills are "sedative hypnotics," a class of drug used to initiate sleep, and include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and various hypnotics.  Benzodiazepines are commonly anti-anxiety medications that can also make a person drowsy enough to sleep, such as, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Librium.  Barbiturates cause sedation by depressing the central nervous system.  They can be prescribed as sedatives, but are more commonly used as anesthesia.  Newer medicines, such as, Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien, help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and are "non-habit forming."  Sleeping pills may help treat the problem of insomnia short term, but can cause harm to people who have certain medical conditions, including liver or kidney disease (Source:

INSOMNIA:  Insomnia is a sleep disorder where an individual has trouble falling or staying asleep.  There are two types of insomnia; primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is when a person has sleep deprevation not associated with health problems or conditions.  Secondary insomnia means that a person is experiencing sleep problems because of a heath condition (Source:


  • Poor sleep or lifestyle habits:  Going to bed at different times, napping in the daytime, using phone or computer in bed, or poor sleeping environment.
  • The use of some medications and drugs:  Too much caffeine during the day, alcohol, heavy smoking, becoming immune to certain kinds of sleep medications, cold medications and diet pills,and other medicines, herbs, or supplements prescribed by a health care provider or bought on your own.
  • Social, physical, or mental issues:  Anxiety or bipolar disorder, medical conditions like thyroid disease, feeling sad or depressed, physical pain, or stress (Source:


  • Herbal sleep aids: chamomile, passion flower, lavender, valerian root, kava, lemon balm, and St. John's Wart
  • Melatonin (a natural hormone that increases at night)
  • Tryptophan and L-tryptophan (Tryptophan is a basic amino acid; L-tryptophan is a common byproduct of tryptophan, which the body can change into serotonin
  • Relaxation techniques: such as, gentle yoga, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation (Source:

*For More Information, Contact:

Kimberly Kirpatrick Justice, Ph,D & Akinyemi Ajayi, MD, D, ABSM

The Women’s Sleep Center

(407) 898-2767


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