Sleep Expert Issues Warning about Popping Pills to Replace Sleep

New drug, Provigil, latest antidote for under-rested, overworked nation
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Provigil is being touted by some as the "secret to success" in the absence of a full night's sleep, but national sleep expert Dr. Craig Schwimmer warns the quick-fix solution could be detrimental to an already sleep-deprived American population.

"I am very concerned that people have discovered yet another wonder pill they can pop when they get tired instead of figuring out how to change their lives in order to get the rest they need," said Dr. Schwimmer, founder of The Snoring Center. "Not a day goes by in my practice that a patient doesn't ask me for a prescription for sleeping pills or for a drug to increase their alertness during the day. It is a growing problem."

While Provigil is approved only as treatment for narcolepsy, sleep apnea and for people who work irregular hours, it is also being used by healthy Americans as a way to enhance focus and productivity. Users have gone on record saying the drug can make the difference between just making it and having the best day of their lives. There are possible side effects, including sleep deprivation, lethal rashes and worse, but of most concern is the fact that there is currently no data regarding the long-term effects Provigil has on a healthy brain.  

The real answer to society's sleep problem lies not in a pill bottle, but within lifestyle choices, Schwimmer said. While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven-and-a-half and nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more.

"It strikes me as shortsighted and dangerous to think that we can outmaneuver our innate need for sleep by popping pills – particularly pills with no long-term safety data," Schwimmer said. "Is there really any reason to think that this latest pharmacological fad is any different than all those that came before it that are abandoned once the risks are ultimately proven to exceed the rewards? This is a deeper problem that needs to be addressed by promoting a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate sleep." 

Schwimmer offers these tips for getting a better night's sleep:

Keep a regular bedtime. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Even on the weekends. If you need to change your bedtime or wake time, do so through small daily increments in order to help your body adjust.

Turn off your computer and TV. Many people sit in front of a computer or television in order to unwind at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the bright screens actually stimulate the mind instead of relax it. Try listening to music instead.

Stay away from big meals at night. Try to eat dinner earlier in the evening and avoid rich or heavy foods within two hours of bed. Also, try to avoid spicy or acidic foods as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.

Avoid alcohol before bed. While alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, it can also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.

Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to 12 hours after drinking it. Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake.

Put to rest an overactive mind. Keep a pen and paper next to your bed so if you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, you can write yourself a quick note and revisit it the next day. The same goes for those times you wake up with a great idea.

...And know when to see a sleep doctor. If you've tried the tips above but are still struggling with sleep problems, you may have a sleep disorder that requires professional treatment.

 For more information, please visit SnoringCenter.com.