The latest research suggests that one of the most common drugstore pills may pose a serious risk to your health. In fact, these pills are so common, there’s a good chance you have a bottle in your own bathroom cabinet.
Most people are blissfully unaware of the risks. They see these pills as harmless. But new research from Scripps Research Institute shows that this just isn’t the case. In fact these “harmless” pills could significantly increase your risk of cancer.
The study was headed up by Dr. Daniel Kripke. He’s a Harvard graduate and leads research for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California.
“The evidence is that any patient who takes these pills is increasing his risk of getting cancer,” he says. “I feel that my patients should be warned about this risk.”
So just what ill is eased by this common drugstore pill?
The answer: insomnia.
Five-Year Study Looks at 34,000 People
The research team set out to determine if sleeping pills are as harmless as people seem to think.
The study looked at a total of 34,000 people across five years. The team focused on about 10,000 people who used sleeping pills, compared to a control group of 24,000 patients. To increase accuracy, they made sure that both groups shared the same age, gender, health, and lifestyle profiles.
The results clearly showed a much higher incidence of cancer for the people taking the sleeping pills.
Dr. Robert Langer, a co-author of the study, says, “We tried every practical strategy to make these associations go away, thinking that they could be due to use by people with more health problems.”
“No matter what we did, the associations held,” he says.
Take a look at the graph below, taken from the study. It shows a clear rise in the incidence of cancer in relation to the number of sleeping pills people take:
Image source: Dr. Kripke’s website.
In fact, the rates of cancer were 35 percent higher for the people who took sleeping pills, compared to those who didn’t.
The study showed that all of the eight most common sleeping pills increased cancer rates, including the popular drugs, Ambien and Lunesta.
The results were published in the prestigious British Medical Journal.
So why would sleeping pills cause cancer?
No one really knows yet, because the research is so new. But Dr. Kripke does have a theory.
“These drugs break certain chromosomes, which is a well-known specific chemical mechanism by which drugs cause cancer,” he says.
UC Research Supports Findings
This isn’t the only study to show that sleeping pills are risky.
An earlier study led by Dr. Kenneth Wright from the University of Colorado showed that they can also affect brain performance by up to 50 percent.
Dr. Gottlieb agrees. He’s a sleep expert and is Yale-trained. He also got his fellowship from Stanford Medical School.
He says that sleeping pills affect the pathways of your brain and that’s what makes them really risky.
“Side effects of these medications are very worrisome,” he says.
As you’ve seen there are some serious risks from taking sleeping pills. But there are plenty of ways to fall asleep faster and promote deep sleep, without the risk.
Three Safe and Natural Ways to Promote Sleep
We told you recently how one tart fruit naturally boosts your sleep quality.
Here are three more ways to improve your sleep.
Lemon balm – This is an herb that has been used for centuries to improve sleep. And recent studies show that our ancestors were really on to something.
Cultivation and use of the plant began in Europe, but is now grown all over the world. It grows up to two feet tall and has small yellow flowers that smell of lemon.
“Several studies show that lemon balm helps promote sleep,” say researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). “In one study of people with minor sleep problems, 81 percent reported sleeping much better than those who took placebo.”
Lemon balm is made from the leaves of the plant and you can get it as a tea or in capsules. Experts at UMMC recommend three, 300-500 mg capsules in the evening. You can also put one teaspoon of dried lemon balm in hot water, and you can enjoy up to four cups before you go to bed.
Melatonin – This hormone is good if you have a hard time getting to sleep.
You can take it 30 to 90 minutes before you go to bed. But we do have to warn you that there can be a risk associated with melatonin. It’s a hormone, just like estrogen or testosterone. If you take it for too long, your body will produce less and less of it so you’ll have to use more.
If you do decide to take it, you’ll need 2-5 mg an hour before you go to sleep. You can buy it online or at health stores and you can get it in liquid or capsule form.
Valerian – It’s an old-fashioned remedy, but recent studies are backing it up. Valerian is an herb that has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient Greece. It contains the sedative compounds, valeric and valerenic acid. The roots and stems are used to make tablets and capsules. You can also drink it as a tea.
Valerian is nontoxic and has no addictive properties. Clinical studies have used between 300-900 mg with good results. Take one to two hours before bedtime.
As usual, even the “safest” drugs turn out to have serious side effects. And like always, there are natural alternatives that you can use that achieve the health benefits you need, without any of the risks that come from man-made drugs.
Wishing you good natural health,
Editorial Director, NHD “Health Watch”