Editorial: Sleep medications are not the answer


Sleep medications are not without risk and will not help you with weight!

Businessperson sleeping in office

Businessperson sleeping in the office

As a family physician, sleep medications are one of the common requests that I received from patients.  Sleep medications are one of the most common advertised medications that you will see online.  Sleep medications rank right behind impotence behavioral health, impotence, and dermatologic medications.   The research would have you believe the sleep medications will fix all that is wrong with your sleep, but the facts are that they are not without risk.  

Recent warnings have been submitted by the Federal Drug Administration[1].  These warnings include the most common medications such as Ambien, Sonata, or Lunesta.    Although the most dangerous side effect that they list in this morning is “sleep-driving”,  this is not the only troublesome side effect that occurs with these medications.    There are a number of troublesome side effects that can occur.  I personally have had more than one patient come in to be seen for things that include night eating, sleepwalking, and complaints such as watering the lawn nude at 3 AM.  The is no way to predict who would have these complex, but troublesome behaviors.

So, will they help me lose weight since they will help sleep?  No, there is no research to back this potential claim.  There is no evidence that these medication effect stress hormones or central obesity.  In fact, poor sleep can lead to increased morbidity and mortality and the sleep medications appear to increase this effect.  

The bottom line: These medications may help you sleep more hours but there is limited research to back their use outside of a number of hours of sleep.  They may help you be more alert in the am or have less behavioral health symptoms, but they will not reduce stress hormones.  In fact, the medications may increase the risk of morning-after drowsiness and lead to driving impaired.  The black box warnings make me think twice about ever taking these medications.  


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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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