Even in the best of times, many of us have a hard time sleeping. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Family Medicine found that a third of adults suffer from chronic insomnia.
But these days, the number may be far higher. The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on our sleep.
It’s not hard to see why. People have lost their jobs and businesses. There is a constant threat of catching a potentially lethal infection. And many of us have been cooped up in our homes for months.
That’s why it was no surprise when a recent report by one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers showed that the number of new prescriptions for sleeping pills jumped about 15% in just one month.
Most of the prescriptions were written for zolpidem (Ambien), the most popular sleep drug.
When it was approved by the FDA in 1992, it was hailed as a major insomnia breakthrough. Doctors saw it as a welcome change from the most popular sleep drug at the time, Halcion, which had been banned in six countries (although not the U.S.). Halcion is highly addictive. It is linked to psychosis and suicide.
Zolpidem, on the other hand, is less addictive. And it has a very short half-life. This means it is flushed from the body quickly. It is less likely to cause next-day drowsiness.
Zolpidem quickly dominated the sleep medication market. It is now one of the most prescribed drugs in America. About 60 million sleep drug prescriptions are filled every year in the U.S. Some 45 million of them are for zolpidem.
In the small print, zolpidem labels warn that the drug has “occasional” side effects that include “sleepwalking” and “strange behavior.” But it has become clear… These problems were anything but rare.
In a class action lawsuit in 2006, a group of more than 500 zolpidem users sued the maker of the drug. They claimed it put them in a dangerous, trance-like state.
They drove cars, binged on food, or engaged in other activities of which they had no memory. Some of them even landed in jail after getting into car accidents.
Their lawyer, Susan Lask, called them “Ambien zombies,” referring to the brand name for zolpidem.
Partly as a result of the lawsuit, the FDA ordered a stronger warning label be put on zolpidem. It says: “After taking zolpidem, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing… Reported activities include: driving a car, making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex, sleepwalking.”
But thousands continue to hurt themselves and others while on the drug. More than 42,000 people a year are treated in emergency rooms after taking zolpidem.
In recent years, as zolpidem’s dangers have become more publicized, sales have started to drop. But that was before the pandemic hit.
3 Natural Solutions for a Good Night’s Sleep
Big Pharma’s insomnia drugs are not worth the risk during the pandemic or any time. These natural remedies can help you get quality sleep without side effects:
- CBD Oil. Studies show this nonpsychoactive cannabis compound can help you sleep.
A small study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that CBD oil helped humans with insomnia sleep significantly longer than those receiving a placebo. And their sleep was deeper than when they didn’t take CBD. Animal research also shows that CBD improves the duration and quality of sleep. None of the studies reported any significant side effects. 
- Lower carbon dioxide (CO2) intake. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology in Holland have found that breathing more oxygen and less carbon dioxide leads to better sleep.
We breathe out CO2 naturally. So a tightly sealed bedroom can reduce oxygen and raise CO2 levels. Scientists tracked the sleeping patterns of 17 healthy volunteers over five nights. On some nights, they opened a window or a door to allow air flow. On other nights, they kept the rooms closed up.
They used sleep monitoring devices and next-day questionnaires to determine subjects’ sleep quality. They also monitored CO2 levels in the bedrooms.
Researchers found that with either a door or window open, CO2 levels were reduced on average from 1,150 particles per million (ppm) to 717 ppm, or about 30%.
During the nights with lower levels of CO2, subjects enjoyed “better sleep depth, sleep efficiency, and lesser number of awakenings,” the researchers reported. They also found that opening a window is slightly more beneficial than keeping the door open. It lowered CO2 by an extra 30 ppm.
The researchers say running an air conditioner also lowers CO2. But air conditioning was not tested in the study.
- Tart cherry juice. A study from the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center looked at insomnia sufferers.
Researchers divided participants into two groups. One drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and again one to two hours before bedtime. The other group drank a cherry-flavored placebo beverage.
The study found that when the subjects were on the cherry juice regimen, they increased their sleep time by an average of 84 minutes a night.
Tart cherry juice is available in frozen, canned, and concentrate forms. All contain nutrients that aid sleep. But try to find an organic version with no added sugar. They are available at health food stores and online.
You don’t need the dangerous sleep medications Big Pharma would love for you to be dependent on. Not when there are better, safer, natural options.
Editor’s Note: If you suffer from insomnia, you’ll want to know about a simple breathing trick that can end your sleepless nights. Learn about it in Independent Healing, the monthly journal that brings you science-backed health advice you won’t find anywhere else. Go HERE to subscribe.