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Are Popular Sleep Aids Causing Dementia?

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Are Popular Sleep Aids Causing Dementia? about undefined

Good sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health. Because without quality rest, your body suffers. In fact, lack of sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, kidney issues, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.1

So, it makes sense that you would do just about anything to get better sleep… including taking over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. But new research suggests that these drugs aren’t always safe, no matter what your mainstream doctor or the FDA tells you.

Research shows that a specific class of popular sleep aids can put you on the fast track to dementia.

Even worse? The more often you use these drugs… the HIGHER your risk of losing your memory and independence.

We’re talking about anticholinergic drugs, including the popular antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Now, you may be thinking, what does allergy medicine have to do with sleeping pills? As it turns out, everything.

The Dangers of Over-The-Counter Allergy Drugs

This antihistamine is often added to over-the-counter pain relievers – like ibuprofen and acetaminophen – and marketed as night-time or “PM” formulas due to its sedative properties.

But this is terrible news for anyone who cares about their brain. Research shows that this class of drugs also blocks the effects of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial for memory and learning.

Now, this is a negative thing for folks of any age. But it’s terrible news for seniors.

Loss of Acetylcholine Means Loss of Memory

You see, as you age, your acetylcholine levels naturally decrease, making the impacts of these drugs even more detrimental to seniors. In fact, the American Geriatric Society suggests that doctors avoid prescribing anticholinergics to older folks.2  But that hasn’t stopped Big Pharma from putting these drugs in every pharmacy… or keeping mainstream doctorss from writing prescriptions for them.

Let’s take a look at the research…

Bad News for Seniors Brains

In a 2015 study, researchers from the University of Washington analyzed the pharmacy and dementia records of nearly 3,500 seniors. They found that anticholinergic drug use was linked to a 54 percent increase in dementia risk!3

Even worse? The higher their use… the higher their risk! This means every time you take one of these “safe” sleep pills, you could be putting your memory in jeopardy!

Another study published in 2019 of nearly 285,000 seniors found that folks taking prescription anticholinergic drugs were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those not taking the pills.4   And a 2021 meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million participants from 14 studies showed that both high and low-dose use of anticholinergics is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.5

Get Better Sleep Naturally

Luckily, you don’t have to rely on mainstream drugs to get the sleep you deserve. Because once again, Mother Nature provides where conventional medicine fails. Here are a few of our favorite natural sleep solutions:

  • Chamomile: This traditional herb known for its calming and sleep-inducing properties. It works by promoting the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps reduce over-excitement in the brain and aids relaxation. Chamomile is often used to ease stress, improve sleep quality, and even support digestive health. A hot cup of chamomile tea before bedtime is a great way to enjoy this sleep aid.
  • L-theanine: This amino acid found in green tea, is known for its relaxing and calming effects. It helps balance brain waves, particularly by increasing alpha wave production, which induces relaxation without causing drowsiness. It's beneficial for reducing stress and improving focus and is also used to promote healthy blood pressure levels and support immune function.
  • KSM-66® Organic Ashwagandha Extract: This herb is a highly concentrated form of Ashwagandha, a well-known adaptogenic herb used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It is believed to lower cortisol levels, which helps reduce stress and improve sleep quality. It also supports memory, brainpower, immune function, and overall health.

This powerful trio can help you get the deep, restful sleep your body needs. And that’s why we included each of them in our My Sleep Miracle supplement. While it’s always a good idea to choose natural sleep aids over chemical or synthetic ones when you’re struggling to rest, you also must consider your overall diet and lifestyle.

Other Ways To Enjoy Deep, Restful Sleep

Many of the leading sleep experts recommend establishing good sleep habits, or sleep hygiene, for a deeper more restful sleep.6  Their suggestions include:

  • Set strict bedtime and wakeup time windows: Establish a sleep schedule such as sleeping only between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Adjust this timeframe based on your circadian rhythm, particularly if you're a night owl.
  • Cater to your biological clock: Manage light exposure, especially after dark. Use dim, blue-blocked lighting or blue light blocking glasses, if necessary, to avoid disrupting your biological clock and melatonin production, crucial for sleep regulation.
  • Limit alcohol consumption at night: Alcohol is a depressant and has sedative effects and not in a positive way. Studies show alcohol can disrupt sleep stages—especially the restorative REM sleep we all seek.
  • Manage stress: Employ soothing distractions to shift focus from persistent, anxious, stressful thoughts before bed. Techniques can include visualization, mindful breathing, or engaging in simple mental activities that aren't overly stimulating such as reading, listening to music, working on needlepoint, etc.
  • Transition to bed effectively: Complete all pre-sleep activities before you start feeling drowsy to avoid disrupting the onset of sleep. Ensure a smooth transition to bed without engaging in alerting tasks right before sleep such as staring at your phone or sitting in front of a blaring television blaring or underneath bright lights.

Our Takeaway

The experts agree that sleep is just as essential to a sharp memory and good health as is food, water, and oxygen.

In fact, Dr. Colin A Espie of the UK National Health Service (NHS), launched a public campaign called “Every Mind Matters” to enhance the public’s understanding of sleep’s importance to memory and mental health and encourage them to prioritize sleep over other activities.7

While we don’t have a public health effort like this in the U.S. we should. So, this week start your own. We encourage you to take steps to safeguard your sleep and improve your sleep hygiene if its faltering. You’ll be glad you did when you begin waking up in the morning feeling healthier, more energetic, clear-headed, and better rested.

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