Sour date seed has been used as a sleep aid in China and other Asian countries for over 2,000 years. The seed of a small tree called Ziziphus jujuba Mill var. spinosa, sour date is used alone or in combination with other herbal medicines to relieve insomnia and anxiety.
In the early 1990s, word was spreading that Halcion, a popular short-acting sleeping pill prescribed for insomnia, was a dangerous drug. Not only did it make users anxious, depressed, and suicidal.
It was also implicated in a series of murders. Sales of Halcion plunged. Today the drug is still on the market but is rarely prescribed.
Now zolpidem (Ambien) is receiving intensive post-marketing scrutiny, raising questions about the drug’s safety.
Antidepressants have been prescribed as de facto sleeping pills for over 3 decades now. This used to bother me. Most antidepressants have not been tested on people with simple insomnia and shown to improve their sleep.
These days I see things differently.
Last week Dan wrote to Ask The Savvy Insomniac with questions about cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Dan has bipolar disorder, and because of this diagnosis, his sleep doctor had reservations about him undergoing CBT-I.
So Dan tried a modified version for 2 weeks. His sleep did not improve. He was wondering if he would have to use sleeping pills and if he should continue with CBT-I on his own.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is now the gold standard in drug-free treatments for insomnia. The benefits are often long lasting.
Researchers have created and are now testing a briefer form of CBT-I called brief behavioral treatment for insomnia (BBTI). BBTI isn’t widely available yet. But with health insurance companies clamoring for providers to rein in costs, BBTI is the wave of the future.
Many of us assume that over-the-counter drugs are safer than prescription drugs.
Yet the long-term effects of any drug can remain unknown for decades, and now researchers have found a correlation between long-term and/or high-dose use of OTC sleep aids and dementia.
Keisha was wondering whether to have a sleep study.
“I asked my doctor to give me something for my insomnia,” she wrote, “but he wants me to have a sleep study first. He thinks I might have sleep apnea. I don’t think I do. I don’t snore (as far as I know). I wake up a lot at night but I’m not short of breath or gasping for air.
“Besides, how could I get any sleep at all with those wires attached to my head! You say sleep studies aren’t helpful for people with insomnia. So what’s your opinion here? Should I have a sleep study or will it just be a waste of my time?”
Roll over, Ambien! After much debate, the FDA has finally approved Merck’s new drug for insomnia. Expect to see Belsomra (a.k.a. suvorexant) on the market early next year.
So what can we hope for from this new sleeping pill and how does it differ from hypnotics available now?