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HEALTH OUTSIDE THE BOX by Dodow

Inspired by yoga, hypnotherapy and meditation, developing Dodow immersed us into a deep study of alternative methods for fixing health problems; sleeping was just a first step.

We would like to share with you our studies, and help you discover health and well-being advice, that are easy to put into practice.

Side effects of sleeping pills

Here at Dodow, we made the choice of finding a natural way to help you fall asleep. The alternative is sleeping pills... and we don't want that! We'll tell you why it's not our tool of choice to fall asleep fast, and why you especially shouldn't take any for your pregnancy insomnia.

What are sleeping pills ?

  • Benzodiazepine

This psychotropic is the most common sleeping pill. It was created with a prescription plan of 7 to 10 days in mind, even though today it is prescribed much longer (even though it shouldn't be). In 2008, over 5% of Americans (adults between the ages of 18 to 80) filled at least one prescription for benzodiazepine even though it affects the brain's nerve endings and relaxes the muscles.

  • Barbiturates

These sedatives are the beginning steps to the first sleeping pills. They affect your central nervous system and can diminish or stop your breathing, put you in a coma, or give you hypothermia (or all of those at the same time). They affect your liver and attack other medications you might have taken at the same time, like some contraceptives and anticoagulants.

Barbiturates are particularly toxic in case of overdose. It has reached the point where the most used barbiturate (phenobarbital) has been banned from sleeping pills and can only be used for epilepsy thanks to its anti-convulsive properties (since 2001).

  • Antihistamines

Yes, these are the same antihistamines that you take to fight off allergies - they also have the ability to put you to sleep. But they are also anti-dopamine and anti-serotonin, which doesn't improve your mood... Secondary effects include increased photo-sensitivity, dry mouth, or even constipation.


A high price for your body to pay

Let's be honest: the first thing to know about sleeping pills is that they represent a mortal danger in the long term. A study from the British Medical Journal in 2012 regarding patients from a sleep center in California shows that there is a correlation between taking sleeping pills and premature death, whether you're a sleeping pill aficionado or an occasional consumer.

This study went from 2002 to 2007 and took into account 24 000 individuals divided in 2 groups, those who took sleeping pills and those who didn't. The results weren't reassuring: the group who didn't take sleeping pills saw their risk of death multiplied by 4, and by 3 for those having taken less than 18 doses a year. They also witnessed a 35% increase in cancer rate, as well as regurgitation problems in the esophagus, ulcers, attention and awareness problems, possible worsening of sleep apnea, breathing problems during the night and pulmonary infections, sleep walking behaviors and more.

Among the eldest patients, there is a risk of falling due to loss of balance (which is very dangerous for seniors) and memory alteration (with Alzheimer's disease for example). It is even suspected that negatively affects the neuronal aging process. A study from the university of Washington found a correlation between taking long term sleeping pills and the appearance of dementia in people over 65 years of age.


A tendency of overuse

The numbers don't lie: in the US today, 10% of the American population suffers from insomnia while nearly 9 million adults use sleeping pills.

Now, these sleeping pills don't pop out of nowhere. Usually, these unnecessary prescriptions are given either during a surgical operation or hospitalization, either when the prescription is automatically renewed. The most attractive thing about sleeping pills is their effectiveness, which is almost immediate. Doctors, like patients, might want to pick an easy solution even thought there are a few consequences in the long run.

Once you've started taking sleeping pills, it's even harder to stop: 25% of people who take sleeping pills for more than 3 months become dependent. They will suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop, but will have to increase their dosage to make sure they continue to be efficient.

However, alternative and efficient solutions exist, like meditation, cognitive and behavioral therapies, which treat sleep problems at the root. However, they do require a minimal investment on the patient's part in the long run. That's why we've developed Dodow, a simple way of learning relaxation exercises and offer a solution to people who would like to fall asleep on their own.

A relative efficiency

The height of absurdity is that sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills are preferred for their ease of use and efficiency, but in reality they're not even as efficient as we think they are. The American Food & Drug Administration has noticed that Sonata (one sleeping pill among many others) didn't increase the time patients spent sleeping. Those who had taken a 10 milligram dose and patients who had taken no medication all slept between 6 hours and 20 minutes. Those who took no drugs took on average 36 minutes to fall asleep during the first week of testing, which is about 14 minutes less than the group which took medication.

One out of 20 people said they were tired the next day, and some of them mentioned memory problems...

If you don't have a choice

Insomnia is often the symptom of another underlying disease which could be neurological in origin. Narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia, for example. In the eventuality where nothing works and you find yourself in the impossible position of having to take sleeping pills in order to function in society, there are some safety imperatives that you should remember in order to minimize risks.

  • Never take an extra dose "to see if it works better", or in the middle of the night if you wake up.
  • Never take a dose with alcohol or any other recreational drugs (while you're at it, don't take recreational drugs). It could trigger secondary effects (sleep walking, memory loss, hallucinations).
  • No antihistamines and sleeping pills at the same time, you'll run a big dependency risk.
  • No sleeping pills to treat anxiety or depression. There are other medications or therapies to cure those problems.
  • Don't take sleeping pills if you have less than 8 hours at your disposal to sleep uninterrupted, or if you plan on doing something that requires concentration like driving.
  • Try and not take sleeping pills for longer than a week. After the 3rd month you will have crossed the boundary beyond which it will become almost impossible to let go, however it is best to take as little as possible.

For more information, you can take a look here:

Benzodiazepines--Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives from the University of Wisconsin Medical School and Harvard Medical School Massachusetts

Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study

Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study

The effects of benzodiazepines on cognition by the National Center for Biotechnology Information

A study on Sonata, a common hypnotic

Prescription Sleep Aid Use Among Adults: United States, 2005–2010


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