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New Study Puts Popular Sleeping Pills to Shame

written by / May 20, 2021
New Study Puts Popular Sleeping Pills to Shame

There’s hardly an American adult who hasn’t popped a sleeping pill at least at some point in their life. 

As most quickly find out, dozing off under prescription medication is both easy and effective. In fact, scientific studies back this up for users taking prescription medication for up to eight months. 

However, the latest sleep study suggests that taking sleeping pills for lasting sleep problems is largely ineffective.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School and Women’s Hospital in Boston put the most popular prescription sleep medication to the test — namely, one and two years of chronic use.

The study was based on the self-reported sleep quality of over 670 ethnically diverse middle-aged women (mean age of 49.5 years) — a reasonable sample group seeing how most of the 50 to 70 million Americans with chronic sleep disorders are, in fact, older women.  

As for the medication, the study included: 

  • benzodiazepines
  • Z-drugs (hypnotics)
  • anti-anxiety medication
  • antidepressants

The two study groups, one that took the prescribed sleeping aids and the one that didn’t, were assessed for the following insomnia indications with a frequency of one in three nights:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking in the middle of the night 
  • earlier awakenings 

Now, the results showed no significant difference for the one- and two-year period, which is a huge blow on the sleeping pills’ long-term effectiveness. 

Although the insomnia-induced symptoms haven’t worsened as a result of the medication, studies like these show that women are only accumulating the side effects of sleeping pills without any real long-term benefits. 

So, are we better off taking natural sleep aids or over-the-counter sleeping aids for chronic disturbances? This study seems to suggest so. Yet, additional long-term studies are also necessary to confirm it beyond any doubt. 

Although new revolutionary drugs are entering the insomnia market, experts believe that the one-sided approach is not enough to improve sleep outcomes, particularly in perimenopausal and menopausal women. 

Overall, improving sleep hygiene, cognitive-behavioral treatment, and looking at prescription sleep aids only as short-term solutions are advised for battling chronic sleeplessness.

Marija Kovachevska is a content writer at, Biochemist and Activist. After obtaining her BSc in Biochemistry and Physiology she changed her microscope for content research tools and continued researching in the fields of Medicine, Biology, and Communication. Her insatiable curiosity flare drove her to become a “content scientist writer” as she likes to say. Reality fascinates her and facts and statistics are a must-have feature in her articles. Fluent in English and French, she is a volunteer and communication associate for several non-profit organizations. French culture and handcrafting are her passion, but in her free time, she indulges in long walks and traveling, or as she likes to say “experiencing the inexperienced.”

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