Sleeping aids both helpful and harmful for patients

Physically exhausted but mentally wide awake, it's what insomniacs experience nightly.

The problem hits 40 million Americans. Women are more likely to have it than men, and those sleepless nights can lead to a dangerous, potentially deadly problem.

Alesandra Rain, Former Sleeping Pill Addict, explains how easy it is to get hooked, "Initially they work extremely well and so you think you're safe. Unfortunately they turn on you pretty rapidly. That little innocent sleeping pill became something that was quite dangerous and nearly took my life."

Alesandra Rain started taking prescription sleeping pills, after a bad car wreck and a wrecked marriage. Soon, she was hooked, taking 60 Ambien and 240 other sleep meds every month, mixing them with hundreds more pills for pain and depression.

Rain describes how many pills she was taking by the time she got help, "By the end I was on 1000 pills a month. If it can happen to someone like me it can happen to anybody."

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found 30 percent of American women use some sort of sleep aid, at least a few times a week. Other research shows 84 percent of new moms experience insomnia.

Sleep Psychologist Doctor Kimberly Justice says just being a woman makes you more prone to sleep problems.

Kimberly Kirkpatrick Justice, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, explains how menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are all causes for sleep problems, "All of those things can add to sleep disruption."

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recommends using hypnotics, like Ambien, Lunesta or Sonata, only once or twice a week, for a few weeks. Like cocaine and crystal meth, you can build up a tolerance to sleep meds. Mixing the drugs with alcohol is dangerous, too.

You should also avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice while on sleep meds. The fruit can make the drugs absorb into your bloodstream faster, and cause over sedation. For Alesandra, rehab was the answer to her sleeping pill problem.

Rain explains how hard it was to get off the drugs, "I wished I had been hooked on heroin. I would have been through it a lot quicker. What started as my biggest mistake in life, was heading down this path, has turned out to be this most enormous gift."

She now runs her own non-profit, helping others from around the world overcome their prescription addictions.

Doctor Justice says after a person quits taking sleeping pills, there is a period of withdrawal called insomnia rebound, where the insomnia gets worse.

She says it's important women know that will pass, and after you beat a sleeping pill addiction you can get back to a normal, restful sleep cycle.

REPORT #1854

BACKGROUND: A third to half of Americans experience insomnia or complain about lack of sleep. The National Sleep foundation found that 30% of all women in America use some sort of sleep aid. Sleeping pills are "sedative hypnotics," a class of drug used to initiate sleep, and include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and various hypnotics. Benzodiazepines are commonly anti-anxiety medications that can also make a person drowsy enough to sleep, such as, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Librium. Barbiturates cause sedation by depressing the central nervous system. They can be prescribed as sedatives, but are more commonly used as anesthesia. Newer medicines, such as, Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien, help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and are "non-habit forming." Sleeping pills may help treat the problem of insomnia short term, but can cause harm to people who have certain medical conditions, including liver or kidney disease (Source:

INSOMNIA: Insomnia is a sleep disorder where an individual has trouble falling or staying asleep. There are two types of insomnia; primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is when a person has sleep deprevation not associated with health problems or conditions. Secondary insomnia means that a person is experiencing sleep problems because of a heath condition (Source:

* Poor sleep or lifestyle habits: Going to bed at different times, napping in the daytime, using phone or computer in bed, or poor sleeping environment.
* The use of some medications and drugs: Too much caffeine during the day, alcohol, heavy smoking, becoming immune to certain kinds of sleep medications, cold medications and diet pills, and other medicines, herbs, or supplements prescribed by a health care provider or bought on your own.
* Social, physical, or mental issues: Anxiety or bipolar disorder, medical conditions like thyroid disease, feeling sad or depressed, physical pain, or stress (Source:

* Herbal sleep aids: chamomile, passion flower, lavender, valerian root, kava, lemon balm, and St. John's Wart
* Melatonin (a natural hormone that increases at night)
* Tryptophan and L-tryptophan (Tryptophan is a basic amino acid; L-tryptophan is a common byproduct of tryptophan, which the body can change into serotonin
* Relaxation techniques: such as, gentle yoga, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation (Source:

For More Information, Contact:
Kimberly Kirpatrick Justice, Ph,D & Akinyemi Ajayi, MD, D, ABSM
The Women's Sleep Center
(407) 898-2767

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