Rousing Facts on Sleeping Aids

Papaver rhoeus L., known as corn or field poppy, is an annual herb native to Europe and Asia. Also known as opium poppy, the species is cultivated extensively in many countries, including Iran, Turkey, Holland, Poland, Yugoslavia, India, Canada, many Asian, Central and South American countries. Poppy seeds are used as a condiment in making baked goods and pastries due to its nutty odor and unique flavor. Poppy oil is widely used as an edible cooking oil. The oil is also used in the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and soaps. Another derivative called opium is further used in the production of morphine, codeine, other alkaloids.

Moreover, Poppy is one of the most important medicinal plants. Traditionally, the dry opium was considered an astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, narcotic, sedative, and hypnotic. The juice of the poppy contains chemicals known as opiates, from which morphine and heroin are distilled. From the ancient medicinal plants such as the opium poppy emerged other sleep-inducers.

Sleeping aids are nothing new. The bark of mandrake or mandragora was used as a sleep aid, as were the seeds of an herb called henbane. The juice of lettuce was also used to induce sleep. As early as 300 B.C., Greek doctors made concoctions of these different plant derivatives to help their patients overcome sleeplessness. Similar prescriptions were also apparently known throughout the Arab world. By the early 1900’s, barbiturates were introduced. In the 1960’s, benzodiazepines arrived on the scene. In the 1990’s, consumers welcomed a safer class of anti-insomnia drugs known as non-benzodiazepine hypnotics.

Sleeping aids are drugs that help a person fall asleep or remain sleeping. Disorders such as insomnia (inability to sleep) are widespread, and drugs to induce sleep have been used since ancient times. Two distinct categories of sleeping pills are sold in the United States: prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Most prescription sleeping pills contain a type of drug known as a benzodiazepine (a central nervous system depressant) as the active ingredient. Benzodiazepines include chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium). Leter, pharmaceutical companies developed non-benzodiazepine hypnotics such as zopiclone and zaleplon (Sonata). A typical over-the-counter sleeping pill contains antihistamines which, in turn, induce drowsiness.

However, most sleeping aids users such as insomniacs are unaware that sleeping pills do the same things to them during the day than what they want them to do at night. That is, these drugs impair their consciousness, judgment, memory and intelligence. Ironically, insomniacs think sleeping pills make them sleep better, when they actually make them feel worse. This is because of the wrong knowledge that sleeping pills are supposed to help them sleep better. They’re most effective for an occasional sleepless night. The more often you take them, the less effective they become.

Both prescription and over-the-counter sleeping aids can cause side effects, such as next-day drowsiness, and sleeping pill overdose can be hazardous. The manufacturing of sleeping pills is highly regulated and overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Pharmaceutical companies concentrate on reducing the side effects of sleeping pills, not on improving daytime performance. Those who take these pills however, are misguided into believing they will receive a daytime benefit. The chance is very high that they will end up becoming chronic sleeping pill users. Since the definition for “quality of sleep” is the amount which allows us to operate at optimum levels of energy, sleeping pills should be carefully studied and considered.

Leave a Comment