Quality sleep is necessary not only for proper concentration and daytime alertness, but impacts health a variety of positive ways, including improved immune function, better memory, and decreased risk of obesity. Commonly used sleep aids such as Benzodiazepines and Zolpidem, help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, but do not improve deep sleep or REM (dream) sleep and often leave people groggy in the morning.
Benzodiazepines are a type of hypnotic medication that is used by the body to increase the rate at which GABA is used. GABA is a neurotransmitter that is known for inducing sleep and reducing anxiety. Short term, these drugs have been shown to be an effective and helpful way to facilitate sleep. Long term, on the other hand, the use of these medications is not recommended by doctors. Benzodiazepines are associated with many risks including drug dependence, withdrawal symptoms, drug tolerance, dizziness, and risks of falling. Rebound insomnia, which causes the symptoms of insomnia to worsen after stopping medications, is also common when people stop taking benzodiazepines. According to the American Geriatric Society BEERS Criteria, a clinical tool that addresses potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults, the use of benzodiazepines should be avoided due to geriatric patient’ increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and decreased metabolism of long-acting agents.
The most commonly prescribed sleep aid in the United States is zolpidem (ambien). The FDA has recently issued additional warning for drugs containing zolpidem (ambien, ambien CR, Edluar, and zopimist) recommending the bedtime dose be lowered especially for women. New data shows that blood levels in some patients can still be high enough in the morning to impair activities that require alertness including driving.
The impact of AM grogginess on function cannot be understated. Kevin Wright, PhD published a study in JAMA in 2006, showing that patients who suffered with AM grogginess scored worse on cognitive and memory tests than patients who had stayed awake for more than 24 consecutive hours.
Options to improve the quality of sleep without causing AM grogginess are more prevalent now than ever before and are a much safer and more effective way to manage insomnia and other sleep disorders. Studies show that people can improve their insomnia by changing sleep habits. Examples of this include going to bed consistently at the same time, having a darkened room, not using your bedroom for non-sleeping activities, and avoiding stimulants about 3 hours before bedtime.
Medical foods are a safe and effective option for patients with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Medical foods are amino acids and other nutrients, that when combined, correct the metabolic deficiencies of diseases and conditions. They provide a solution that cannot be obtained from diet alone or supplements. They have been found to improve the quality of sleep without the morning grogginess or side effects of other prescription sleep medications. Medical foods may make getting a good nights’ sleep an achievable goal.
 Arch Dis Child 2006;91:881-884 doi:10.1136/adc.2005.093013
 Zolpidem Containing Products: Drug Safety Communication- FDA Requires Lower Recommended Doses (2013). Retrieved April 23, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch/safetyinformation/safetyalertsforhumanmedicalproducts/ucm334738.htm
 AGS BEERS Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication use in Older Adults (2012). Retrieved April 23, 2014. http://www.americangeriatrics.org/files/documents/beers/PrintableBeersPocketCard.pdf
 Adam T. Wertz, BS; Joseph M. Ronda, MS; Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD; Kenneth P. Wright, PhD
JAMA. 2006;295(2):159-164. doi:10.1001/jama.295.2.163.