Sleep Medication and Cognitive Decline - The Research


I am a nutritional medicine practitioner and not a naysayer when it comes to medication. I am forever saying, ‘Thank goodness for modern medicine’. I have even been known to take a sleeping tablet when travelling overseas to get in the rhythm of the country I am visiting. Until now. This new research on over-the-counter and prescription sleep medicines is scary, and I try to do everything I can to protect my brain from brain fog and mental health concerns.

What is the research behind cognitive decline and sleep medication?

National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), published in Sleep Medicine in 2021, looked at data for eight years from more than 6,000 participants over 65 years old. The researchers looked for differences in the long-term health of participants who used sleep medications, including both prescription medications and over-the-counter ones.

The research revealed that the participants used sleep medicine routinely for insomnia, and those who used them “most nights” or “every night” were 30% more likely to develop dementia during the study period.

The research accounted for differences in age, sex, marital status, education, or other chronic conditions that may have affected their risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Why is this research into sleep necessary?

Getting a good night's sleep is essential. It builds our health equity - how much good health do we have in our personal bank account, so to speak. Sleep improves our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Because of this we are currently being educated on the link between sleep, immunity, healthy weight, and brain function in so many media outlets. This is not fake news, this is science.

What is troubling is the number of people relying on sleep medication to get a good night’s sleep. More than 70 million people with sleep disorders use prescription medication in America. Sleeping prescriptions increased by 67% between 1996 to 2013.

Whilst sleeping medication might allow you to drift off to sleep quicker, it does not mean that you are getting good quality sleep. Certain medications can disrupt the normal biochemistry that happens during normal healthy sleep. This may lead to a build-up of neurotoxins that are usually part of cellular clearance in a healthy sleep cycle.

What are the alternatives to prescription sleep medication?

I am a big advocate of creating a solid sleep routine. I believe sleep is the number one pillar of well-being. Sleep, nutrition, exercise, and stress hack habits are the four pillars of a mentally and physically healthy life. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts all of the positive qualities we desire as high-performance employees and/or high-performance parents 😉.

Consider the following:

  • A regular sleep bedtime and wake time.
  • Improving and creating a regular exercise routine. Eating healthy meals earlier in the evening.
  • There are even safe non-prescription nutritional supplements that aid sleep quality such as magnesium glycinate and melatonin. As always, consult a qualified nutritionist before beginning any supplements.
  • Consider my online course The Impact of Improving Sleep & Stress Levels on Productivity.

Any questions, thoughts, comments, feedback? Please share as we truly value efforts to create a positive wellness culture in your professional and family life.

Yours in good health & a bit of dark chocolate.


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