Insomnia Research: Sleep Drug Safety Risks Vs. Natural Remedies

A new study from the University of Colorado at Boulder has found that people who take one of the world’s most commonly prescribed sleep medicines are significantly more at risk for nighttime falls, potential injury, and memory impairment.

The study, which involved twenty-five healthy adults, showed 58 percent of the older adults and 27 percent of the young adults who took a hypnotic, sleep-inducing drug called zolpidem showed a significant loss of balance and impaired thinking-ability when awakened two hours after sleep.

Zolpidem is a generic drug that is marketed under a number of different brand names, including Ambien, Zolpimist, Edluar, Hypogen, Somidem and Ivedal. “These findings are important because falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults, and 30 percent of adults sixty-five and older who fall, require hospitalization each year,” said Associate Professor Kenneth Wright, lead study author.

“The balance impairments of older adults taking zolpidem were clinically significant and the cognitive impairments were more than twice as large compared to the same older adults taking placebos,” said Wright. “This suggests to us that sleep medication produces significant safety risks.”

The good news is that there are natural alternatives available. A recent Gallup Poll survey reported that magnesium consumption greatly declines as we age. 79 percent of adults fifty-five and over are eating below the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium.

In fact, the National Institutes of Health web site says that older adults are at increased risk of magnesium deficiency due to their decreased ability to absorb the mineral. Also, the diseases to which older adults are vulnerable, and some of the drugs used in therapy, also contribute to magnesium loss.

Richard Rivlin, M.D., Chief of the Nutrition Division at New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center says: “The prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and even leg cramps increases dramatically among older persons, and these are all health conditions in which magnesium deficiency has been found.”

A recent National Sleep Foundation poll found that 67 percent of older Americans report having frequent insomnia and sleep problems. Particularly for older people, a possible underlying nutritional cause of insomnia may be a deficiency of certain minerals. James F. Balch, M.D., author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, writes: “A lack of the nutrients calcium and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.”

Chronic insomnia is one of the main symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Sleep in magnesium deficiency is usually agitated with frequent nighttime awakenings. On the other hand, a high magnesium diet has been found to be associated with deeper, less interrupted sleep. This was shown in a study done by James Penland at the Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota. The study was called “Effects of trace element nutrition on sleep patterns in adult women.”

Regarding the use of a nutritional sleep remedy containing magnesium for insomnia relief, certain formulas are more effective than others. The combination of minerals included and the presence of cofactors in the product are key. Formulas should contain a two to one ratio of calcium to magnesium. The original research on this recommended ratio appeared in 1935 in the Journal of Physiological Reviews, and is made on the basis of long-term metabolic studies in men and women.

One natural insomnia remedy showing good results is Sleep Minerals II, made by Nutrition Breakthroughs in Glendale, CA. This natural sleep aid contains highly absorbable forms of calcium and magnesium, the best minerals for sleeplessness and insomnia, as well as for heart health, restless leg syndrome, bone strength, menopause insomnia and teenage insomnia. It also contains vitamin D and zinc and is delivered in a softgel form with healthy carrier oils, making it better assimilated than tablets or capsules and providing a deeper, longer-lasting sleep.

L.R.C. of Massachusetts says: “I had become dependent on sleeping drugs and couldn’t sleep without them. Now I take the Sleep Minerals before bed and I can sleep through the whole night without drugs. I’m also able to easily fall back to sleep if I do have to get up. Another benefit is that it helps alleviate my chronic fatigue and aches and pains.”

As research continues on sleep medications, more and more adverse effects are likely to be discovered. Natural minerals can be an effective, safe alternative.

See the Sleep Minerals II page for more information.