The dark side of sleeping pills: a revealing look

Every day, more than 1 million sleeping pills(!) cross pharmacy counters on average in Belgium. There are a lot of people taking sleep medication and that number does not seem to be decreasing. Therefore, the Belgian government is going to engage pharmacists to help patients phase out their sleep medication use. From today, a pilot project will start where pharmacists will guide you in phasing out your sleep medication. Your GP will have to give a prescription first, but after that, the pharmacist will take over. Why is it that sleep medications are still so popular in our country, even though we know they are bad for our health? However, there are a lot of reasons to avoid using sleeping pills as sleep aids. We are very happy to give you the most important ones!

sleep medicine
  • Addiction: Some sleeping pills can be addictive, meaning you need higher and higher doses to achieve the same sleep effect.
  • Side effects: Sleeping pills can cause side effects such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, confusion and difficulty concentrating.
  • Reduction in quality of sleep: Sleeping pills will make you fall asleep faster, but they can disrupt the natural sleep cycle. This significantly reduces the quality of your sleep.
  • Dependence: The use of sleeping pills can lead to dependence that means you simply cannot get to sleep without them.
  • Risk of side effects when combined with other medications:

Those who take sleeping or sedative pills and painkillers or cough medicines at the same time risk serious health problems. This is stated in a new warning from the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP). “The combination can lead to sedation, respiratory depression, coma and even death,” it sounds.

There are many natural and healthy alternatives to sleeping pills to sleep better. Read below our 6 rules for a good night’s sleep:

  • Regular sleep routine: Always try to go to bed and get up at the same hour to help your body develop a natural sleep routine.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise, especially in the morning or afternoon, can help improve sleep quality. Avoid exercising in the late hours.
  • Relaxation techniques: Techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can help you relax and sleep better.
  • Healthy nutrition: Ensure a healthy and balanced diet and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Good sleep environment: Make your bedroom dark, quiet, cool and comfortable to create an optimal sleep environment.
  • Reduce screen use before bedtime: Avoid using electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, as the blue light rays hinder sleep.

We cannot give you a ready-made roadmap. Every body is different.  It is important to experiment and determine what works best for your specific sleep needs. If you continue to struggle with sleep problems, always consult your GP or contact a sleep coach.

sleep medicine


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