Monday, March 19, 2007

Insomnia / Sleep-Challenged? Here's A Possible Drug-Free Cure

Insomnia - The Movie (2002)

The FDA Ups The Ante On 13 Sedative-Hypnotic Drugs

The Alert
In a press release issued last week, the FDA has raised an alert on a whole class of drugs that people usually consume for inducing sleep. If you are one of those consumers, you may like to check the drug you are / have-been taking against this list (reproduced below):

* Ambien, Ambien CR (zolpidem tartrate)
* Butisol sodium
* Carbrital (pentobarbital and carbromal)
* Dalmane (flurazepam hydrochloride)
* Doral (quazepam)
* Halcion (triazolam)
* Lunesta (eszopiclone)
* Placidyl (ethchlorvynol)
* Prosom (estazolam)
* Restoril (temazepam)
* Rozerem (ramelteon)
* Seconal (secobarbital sodium)
* Sonata (zaleplon)

NY Times, Image of Drugs

Two types of adverse events have the potential to occur when you pop these pills over a period of time:

1. Anaphylaxis or acute allergy: These drugs, somehow, rub the body's immune system the wrong way. You see, the hypothalamus in the brain releases an important neurotransmitter called Histamine. This chemical is what keeps us awake. And interestingly, it is this same chemical that the body's immune system too produces when it has to fight foreign cells that may have entered the body (that is, the allergic state.)

So what happens is because of an as-yet-unexplained-reason, the drugs cause the histamine to run riot in the body, creating a rash of allergic symptoms, often times as early as the first time the pill is popped. These symptoms may include Angioedema (swelling in the face, neck and throat), hypotension, unconsciousness, anxiety, abdominal pain, and the like.

Image by Brad Harrison, stock.Xchng

2. Parasomnia: The FDA, surprisingly, does not use this umbrella term to describe the event. Any of these symptoms may occur when you go to sleep after taking these pills: sleep-walking (somnambulism), sleep-talking (somniloquy), sleep-eating, teeth-grinding (bruxism), and the like.

'Woman Asleep At The Table, Oil On Canvas By Johannes Vermeer van Delft,

Since December 2006, the FDA has been working with the manufacturers to come out with "Patient Medication Guides", which are handouts given at the time of dispensing the medicines, explaining proper use. One important point mentioned in the Guide is that alcohol and certain nervous system depressants must not be taken along with these drugs.

Insomnia - A Widespread malady
March 2007 has been a wake-up call for another reason. The National Sleep Foundation released a new poll in the first week of March, according to which American women of all ages have been found to have some or the other sleep-related problems, irrespective of their lifestyle (stay-at-home-moms, working-mothers, single-working-women).

Sleeping Woman

No wonder, the NSF is sparing no effort to increase awareness on the virtues of a good night's sleep.

Self-Hypnosis is one technique that does not have any of the side-effects of the drugs, yet has the potential to eliminate Insomnia. The principle behind Self-Hypnosis is that words coming from the CD player / MP3 file hold a suggestive power that takes the listener to a trance-like state. When in trance, the brain automatically relaxes down to alpha and lower-than-alpha frequencies. The only thoughts that stream through the mind now are the ones created by the soft words coming from the player. There are no other thoughts around to distract. And when the suggestion is that you are shifting deep, deep, deep into sleep, this is what invariably happens. The beauty of the technique is that it holds absolutely no side-effects (to the best of my knowledge), and can, at best, make the person go deep in sleep, and, at worst, relieve the person of all stress and tension and worries of the day.

Worth trying, self-hypnosis.

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Available here: Costs USD 12.95 for a download, USD 25.95 for a CD.

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