You don’t have to take pills to sleep soundly but you might need a reliable clock

Pyjamas are an important part of the formula for dumping your sleeping pills.

Dunno if you spotted the bothersome news item about people regularly taking certain sleeping pills being much more likely than the rest of us to suffer an early death.

The drugs at issue included benzodiazepines, such as temazepam; non-benzodiazepines, such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon; barbiturates; and sedative antihistamines.

An American study found those taking high doses of these commonly used pills faced a significantly increased risk of cancer.

Alf was by no means unnerved by this news, because his whisky intake seems to ensure he does not need pills to get a good night’s kip.

But some of his constituents were deeply troubled and wanted to know what Pharmac or other medical authorities in Wellington are doing to affirm the awful truth of the American research.

And what should they do?

The short answer is that the head of Pharmac is telling people who use sleeping pills not to be alarmed by the study linking their use to the risk of an early death.

Moreover, Medsafe is on the case and will investigate the findings of the study, which have been published in the British Medical Journal.

It seems we Kiwis have been shovelling a fair whack of these pills into our systems.

The Radio NZ item cited above says –

Pharmac says almost 546,000 prescriptions for the common drug Zopiclone were issued in New Zealand in the year to June 2011.

It says another drug, Temazepam, the focus of the report, is used less commonly, with 88,700 prescriptions issued over the same period.

Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie said it was difficult to draw a direct link between the medications and the deaths because it may be that people who take a lot of sleeping tables have other problems such as pain or depression.

Alf would also point out that if the study was conducted in the US, it’s relevance to we Kiwis is very dubious because Americans have all sorts of bad lifestyle habits that would skew the results, such as over-eating.

More positively, there’s good news from the UK for the sleep-deprived.

A survey there shows how you can get a perfect night’s sleep without pills. Or scotch.

But getting that sleep will require some extraordinarily precise time-keeping.

In a nutshell, you should go to bed at 10pm wearing pyjamas after enjoying a cup of tea beforehand.

THE key to a perfect night’s sleep is going to bed at exactly 10pm, wearing pyjamas and enjoying a cup of tea beforehand, it was revealed yesterday.

A survey of 2,000 adults who claim to enjoy an undisturbed sleep every night of the week highlights how they do it.

It shows you should have at least two hours and seven minutes’ rest in the evening after cooking, washing up and doing the chores.

The last food of the day should be eaten by 8.29pm and the last drink, preferably a cup of tea, at 9.10pm.

The average person will watch an hour and 46 minutes of television, opting for soap operas or comedy quiz shows.

After going to bed at 10pm in your pyjamas you should spend 20 minutes reading before settling down, lying on your right-hand side facing outwards on the right-hand side of the bed. You will then fall asleep at 10.26pm and not wake up till the alarm goes off at 6.47am.

Tania Johnston, of bedlinen brand Bedeck, said: “Our survey shows all that is needed for a good rest is a chilled-out evening and a bit of routine.”

Dunno about chilling out when so much precise time-keeping is required, but…

Oh, and the Daily Express had more advice on how to get a good night’s sleep without life-threatening pills here.

As for that stuff about sleeping tablets shortening your life span, the aforementioned American study reportedly tracked the survival of 10,500 people who were prescribed a range of sleeping pills for an average of two-and-a-half years between 2002 and 2007.

Their survival was compared to more than 23,500 people, matched for age, sex, lifestyle factora and underlying health problems, but who had not been prescribed sleeping pills over the same period.

People who took up to 18 doses a year were more than 3.5 times as likely to die as those prescribed none, those taking between 18 and 132 doses were more than four times as likely to die, while people taking more than 132 doses a year were more than five times as likely to die as those prescribed none.

Those taking the highest doses were 35 percent more likely to develop a form a cancer.

The authors of the study said while showing association does not necessarily prove cause and effect, the research does back up previous research showing an increased risk of death among users of sleeping pills.

The lead author is a Dr Daniel Kripke, of the Scripps Clinic.

He told the British Medical Journal Open the “meagre benefits” of sleeping pills do not justify the “substantial risks”.

“A consensus is developing that cognitive-behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics.”

BMJ Open editor in chief, Dr Trish Groves, agreed the findings raise further concern around the prescription drugs.

“Although the authors have not been able to prove that sleeping pills cause premature death, their analyses have ruled out a wide range of other possible causative factors. So these findings raise important concerns and questions about the safety of sedatives and sleeping pills.”

Howz about someone studying the sleep-inducing benefits of a few nips of scotch before bedtime?

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