(NaturalHealth365) Due to diminishing neurons within the aging brain, older people tend to have a difficult time sleeping. Yet, researchers have determined that people of all ages have either “too much wake drive” or “too little sleep drive” that can be related to several factors: psychiatric or medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances and activities, and certain biological factors.
Whatever the reasons, people are relying on over-the-counter sleeping pills to get the rest they need. But, are they really safe or not?
Think twice before taking the next sleeping pill
The types of medication in question include those that have an “anticholinergic” effect. Anticholinergic medications are used to treat a variety of conditions, including sleep problems. However, new research is showing that anticholinergic drugs significantly raise the dementia risk for elderly adults. (But, why?)
Anticholinergic drugs inhibit a crucial brain chemical called acetylcholine that attaches to nerve cells. This brain chemical is essential for your central and peripheral nervous system.
Without adequate amounts of acetylcholine, bodily functions are limited such as muscle contraction which helps you blink your eyes and tie your shoes. Brain cells are also diminished and symptoms such as forgetfulness and confusion set in without acetylcholine.
Prolonged use of sleeping pills will raise the risk of dementia
According to a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, side effects from anticholinergic drugs were thought to be reversible when a person stops taking them. But, researchers have also determined, these medications do have a lasting effect on those who use them on a regular basis.
The study estimated that people taking 50 milligrams of a sleep aid (diphenhydramine) per day for more than three years would be at greater risk for developing dementia. However, more studies are being conducted to determine whether several episodes of short-term use contribute to a greater risk of brain issues.
Recently, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reported that anticholinergic exposure represents a potentially modifiable risk factor for poor attention, working memory, and physical function. Rehabilitation is also longer for those affected.
Be warned: These drugs can cause serious health problems
Anticholinergics aren’t only prescribed for insomnia or sleeping disorders. They are prescribed for numerous health conditions in older people. Seasonal allergies, overactive bladder, and depression are just a few of the health issues that anticholinergic drugs treat.
The following is a list of medications that were used in the study that determined a link between anticholinergics and dementia. If you’re taking one of these medications, be sure to discuss alternative treatments with your physician.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends treating older people with alternatives to anticholinergics when possible. (get ready – it’s a BIG list):
- Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep, Vanatrip)
- Atropine (Atreza, AtroPen, Sal-Tropine)
- Benztropine (Cogentin)
- Chlorpheniramine (Aller-Chlor, Allergy Relief, Allergy Time, C.P.M., Chlo-Amine, Chlor-Mal, Chlorpheniramine (Allergy), Chlor-Phenit, ChlorTan, Chlor-Trimeton, Chlor-Al Rel, Chlor-Phen, Chlorphen, Chlor-Trimeton Allergy SR, Ed ChlorPed, Ed-Chlor Ped Jr, Ed-Chlortan, Ed Chlor-Tan, Efidac-24 Chlorpheniramine, Pediox-S, P-Tann, PediaTan, Pharbechlor, QDALL AR, Ridramin, TanaHist-PD, Triaminic Allergy, Wal-finate)
- Chlorpromazine (Ormazine, Throzine, Thorazine Spansule)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Clozapine (Clozaril, FazaClo, Versacloz, Clopine, CloZAPine Synthon, Denzapine, Zaponex)
- Cyclobenzaprine (Amrix, Comfort Pac with Cyclobenzaprine, Fexmid, Flexeril)
- Cyproheptadine (Periactin)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Dexchlorpheniramine (Polaramine, Polaramine Repetabs)
- Dicyclomine (Bentyl, Debetn, Dicyclocot)
- Diphenhydramine (Allermax, Banophen, Benadryl, Compoz Nighttime Sleep Aid, Diphedryl, Diphenhist, Dytuss, Nytol QuickCaps, Silphen Cough, Simply Sleep, Sleepinal, Sominex, Theraflu Thin Strips Multi Symptom, Tranquil, Triaminic Thin Strips Allergy, Twilite, Unisom Sleepgels Maximum Strength, Valu-Dryl, Z-Sleep, plus many others)
- Doxepin (SINEquan)
- Fesoterodine (Toviaz)
- Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Rezine, Vistacon, Vistacot, Vistaject-50, Vistaril, Vistaril IM, Vistazine, Vistazine 50)
- Hyoscyamine (A-Spas S/L, Anaspaz, Cystospaz, Cystospaz-M, Donnamar, Ed Spaz, HyoMax, HyoMax DT, HyoMax FT, HyoMax SL, HyoMax SR, Hyosol, Hyospaz, Hyosyne, IB-Stat, Levbid, Levsin, Levsin SL, Levsinex SR, NuLev, Nulev, Oscimin, Spasdel, Symax Duotab, Symax FasTab, Symax SL, Symax SR)
- Imipramine (Tofranil, Tofranil-PM)
- Meclizine (Antivert, Bonine, D-Vert, Dramamine Less Drowsy, Driminate II, Meclicot, Medivert, Ru-Vert-M, Meni-D)
- Nortriptyline (Aventyl HCI, Pamelor)
- Olanzapine (ZyPREXA, ZyPREXA Zydis)
- Orphenadrine (Antiflex, Banflex, Flexoject, Flexon, Myolin, Norflex, Norflex Injectable, Orfro, Orphenate)
- Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Urotrol)
- Paroxetine (Brisdelle, Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva)
- Perphenazine (Trilafon)
- Prochlorperazine (Compazine)
- Promethazine (Phenergan)
- Protriptyline (Vivactil)
- Pseudoephedrine HCI (Chlor Trimeton Nasal Decongestant, Contac Cold, Drixoral Decongestant Non-Drowsy, Elixsure Decongestant, Entex, Genaphed, Kid Kare Drops, Nasofed, Seudotabs, Silfedrine, Sudafed, Sudafed 12-Hour, Sudafed 24-Hour, Sudafed Children’s Nasal Decongestant, Sudodrin, SudoGest, SudoGest 12 Hour, Suphedrin, Triaminic Softchews Allergy Congestion, Unifed)
- Scopolamine (Maldemar)
- Thioridazine (Mellaril, Mellaril-S)
- Tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA)
- Trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
- Trimipramine (Surmontil)
- Triprolidine (Histex PD Drops, Histex Syrup, Vanahist PD, Zymine, Zymine XR, Tripohist)
I know, it’s a crazy long list … so, now, are there any alternatives to this toxic list of drugs?
The simple answer is yes! You can improve your sleep naturally without the need for dangerous medications.
Sleep disorders are a growing epidemic throughout the ‘modern’ world. If you have trouble sleeping or suffer from insomnia, opting for a natural method will help you avoid the negative effects of anticholinergic drugs.
First, be sure to reduce your risks for sleep disorders by putting away any electronics that produce artificial lights at least two hours before you plan on hitting the sheets. You can also look into blue light therapy to improve your sleep.
In addition, for some people, taking a natural supplement that helps with sleep (such as melatonin) may resolve sleep anxiety without reducing acetylcholine – the necessary brain chemical to help you function. Of course, regular habits of yoga, meditation, baths, and herbal teas can help relax the body before bedtime. For most people, it’s best to avoid vigorous exercise (late at night) or get involved with ‘intense’ projects (or discussions) before bedtime.
Finally, to say the obvious, a healthy diet is so important and, above all, avoid eating sugary foods – 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. If your sleep problems persist – seek the help of a well-trained, naturopathic physician.
Editor’s note: Get INSTANT access to the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Summit to discover the best ways to prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s and dementia despite what you’ve been told by conventional medicine. Learn more.
About the author: Abby Campbell is a medical, health, and nutrition research writer. She’s dedicated to helping people live a healthy lifestyle in all aspects – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Abby practices, writes, and coaches on natural preventive care, nutritional medicine, and complementary and alternative therapy.
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