How to give up sleeping pills

How to give up sleeping pills

To celebrate World Sleep Day, Sleep and Mindset Coach Emily Greenslade talks us through the effects of sleeping tablets and what our natural alternatives are.

Sleeping tablets are readily available to anyone who visits their doctor and describes how they can’t sleep well. Back in 2019 it was reported that 2.4 million of the UK population were on prescribed sleeping tablets.

Many people only ever manage about 4-6 hours a night, I would end up resetting my alarm halfway through the night to allow me more time to sleep in the morning, meaning I would spend more time in bed, but less time asleep.

It was seriously affecting my work, my relationships, my body and my health, I was anxious and generally feeling quite low and fatigued all the time. So 8 years ago, I went to my GP and told him I was struggling to lose weight and I couldn’t sleep, he advised that I should reduce the stress in my life but also prescribed Zopiclone to me as an aid to help me sleep. 

I remember actually being excited at the thought of having sleeping tablets and potentially being able to get a good night’s sleep.

I found that the longer I took the sleeping tablets for, the higher the dose I would need to be able to sleep without interruption. They were pretty addictive because sleeping tablets allow you to actually sleep, however it is more a form of sedation rather than a natural sleep.

When sedated you are not going through the natural sleep cycles properly and these are important cycles, especially the REM sleep cycle as this is the cycle needed for dreaming, memory, emotions and healthy brain development.

A lack of sleep will affect so many important things in your life such as, memory loss, trouble focusing, making bad decisions, mood swings, fraught relationships, slower reaction times, lack of motivation, underperforming, drowsy driving, anxiety and even depression.  

Upon reading Lilly Allen’s book My Thoughts Exactly it noted in that Lilly used Zopiclone to help her lose weight, she would take a couple of tablets on a Friday night and take some more on a Saturday to knock her out for the weekend so that she didn’t have to eat and therefore lose weight.

The irony is that should you sleep a solid 7-9 hours a night, you are more likely to lose weight because sleep deprivation can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decrease the hormone levels of leptin which controls the appetite in the body, so by increasing your sleep by about an hour every night can reduce your calorie intake by approximately 270 calories per day.

In 2021 I stumbled across a course that would not only teach me how to sleep, but would teach me how to teach others how to sleep too. It was life changing!

By making some small habit changes to my daily routine, over the course of about 4-6 weeks, I then managed to get myself into an awesome sleeping pattern. I now no longer take sleeping pills and I can sleep for at least 7 solid hours a night.

Here are a couple of tips to get you started on the same journey.

  •  Water

We lose a litre of water each night through dehydration, so make water your first drink of the day (not coffee!). Replenish that 1 litre first thing to get you started on your new daily rhythm for good sleep.

  •  Caffeine

Wait 90 mins before you have your first caffeinated drink, allow your body to naturally release cortisol rather than using caffeine to raise your energy levels. Try to also keep your caffeine levels to a minimum, making sure you don’t have any past 2pm. With coffee having a half-life of 6 hours, it is still doing half its job 6 hours after your last cuppa, just think what that is doing to your system and your rhythm.

  • Light

To allow your body to get its circadian rhythm going from the moment you wake in the morning, ensure you get 2-20mins of light first thing in the morning, ideally natural light.

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