Heath Watch: Sleeping pills, aids may pose health hazard to students who misuse

By on March 29, 2006

Combine an overmedicated society with people constantly looking for a ‘quick fix’ to all their problems, and it’s no wonder The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reported more than 30 million people in the United States are currently taking sleeping medications.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Add in the ever growing, sleep deprived college students taking un-prescribed “sleeping aids” and the number of all such pills that are being popped by students daily becomes a staggering figure.

“We don’t teach young people coping skills anymore,” said Kathryn Macione, Director of Student Health Services. “We live in a faster life now, rather than taking the time to get to the root of the problem, many of the young patients and the overbooked doctors would rather see a prescription written.”

College life is often one of the busiest times of a person’s life. Trying to balance loads of homework, a busy social life and often a demanding sports team or job, can be tough. With all of these obligations are we too busy for sleep?

“I normally experience problems sleeping when I am stressed. Trying to do everything I want to during the school year is hard, especially when the work piles up,” said Claudia Levine, a junior Interactive Digital Design Major.

Studies show that only 10% of college students feel they get enough sleep on a daily basis. With sleep deprivation a popular trend on college campuses, many students try to make the most of the sleep they do get by turning to common over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol P.M., Benadryl and NYQUIL.

“Every once in awhile I will take a Tylenol P.M., especially after staying up late on the weekends when I have a hard time getting to sleep early enough on Sunday night before a week of classes starts again,” said Stefanie Rice, a junior Nursing major.

Turning to such sleeping aids on a regular basis, however, has some serious downfalls.

Popping sleeping pills often results in drowsiness, and impairs ones judgment, memory and intelligence the following day. In the long term, individuals may become dependent on the sleeping aid and ultimately cause more sleeping problems.

MIND, a leading mental health charity in England and Wales warns the public of the addictive problems associated with sleeping pills, and the possibility of even worse withdrawal effects.

“You can become dependent on the tablets in just two weeks,” said a MIND spokeswoman.

Julie Wilson, a junior Nursing major, says side effects are why she avoids taking sleeping aids as much as she can.

“I have taken Tylenol P.M., but it’s pretty rare,” she said. “Even if I get a full night of sleep I still feel groggy throughout the beginning of the next day.”

It is the feeling of fatigue connected to almost all sleeping aids, even the prescription ones such as Ambien, that makes them beneficial only on a short term basis, and only on the condition that when using them a full nights sleep (approximately eight hours) is achieved.

The consequences of not following precautions when using such sleeping aids can be fatal.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tired drivers are responsible for approximately 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths each year.

Jon D’Ascoli, a junior Business major, used Ambien after an injury.

“I couldn’t sleep because I was in a lot of pain from a recent surgery I had,” D’Ascoli said. “Ambien didn’t necessarily put me to sleep, but it helped me relax, and I was able to sleep through the night.”

According to the Ambien website, users must closely follow precautions. They state usage of the drug should typically not exceed seven to 10 days.

With study results showing effects on the REM(Rapid Eye Movement) stages of sleep, defined as a mentally active period during which dreaming occurs, whether or not a person is actually getting the best sleep they can when taking such sleeping aids is still in question.

Ultimately the best thing for people who find they have trouble sleeping is relaxing rather than popping pills for the problem. Taking a step back and examining one’s daily lifestyle will be more beneficial both in the short term and the long term. Diet,stress and exercise levels have also been proven to have a large impact on an individual’s ability to sleep. Thinking about a problem. will only keep someone awake longer.

“I think people who have balanced diets, get daily exercise, and try to stick to a routine schedule will find they can sleep better. If that doesn’t work, maybe they should try a glass of warm milk,” said Macione.


About Erin Elfeldt

One Comment

  1. seolace

    May 6, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Nice post, thanks for writing!