http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/355345

Op-Ed: Why new moms should avoid sleeping pills

Posted Jul 27, 2013 by Michael Essany
As millions of Americans struggle with what the CDC calls a national epidemic of sleep deprivation, the latest research shows that prescriptions for sleep medications continue to grow at record pace.
Untitled
Image By e-Magine Art
In the United States alone, more than 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills are now issued annually, particularly for adults between the ages of 20 and 45.
Domestic dependency on sleeping meds has increased so markedly in the last five years that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in early 2013 that it will require drug makers who produce sleep medications containing Zolpidem to reduce some of their recommended dosages.
"The new requirements put specific focus on lowering the recommended dosage for women," says Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist with a specialty in Sleep Disorders. "This comes as a result of research showing that morning blood levels of the medication may be high enough to reduce alertness."
With sleeping pill usage especially prevalent among women in their child bearing years, a growing number of physicians are warning new and expectant moms that meds to help them sleep may not be safe for those who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Even sleep aids deemed harmless for consumption by nursing mothers can be dangerous since the mother may not easily rouse from sleep in response to her baby’s movement, crying, and breathing.
But with sleep deprivation continuing to impact the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of new moms - predominantly those who have recently curbed their reliance on sleeping medications and suffer from rebound insomnia - innovative non-medicinal alternatives for treating sleep deprivation are proving to be comparably effective as the prescriptions they're safely replacing.
Neuroscientist and NASA funded sleep researcher Seth Horowitz, Ph.D. points to groundbreaking new technology like the Sleep Genius mobile app for iOS as a potential game changer for the long-suffering sleep deprived.
"Sleep is not simple unconsciousness," says Dr. Horowitz, explaining that Sleep Genius was developed by fellow experts in neuroscience and inspired by extensive research used to help NASA astronauts sleep in space. “It is an extraordinarily complex and critical brain-controlled behavior that is harnessed by Sleep Genius."
Dr. Kamran Fallahpour, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist at New York's Brain Resource Center, similarly believes that scientifically advanced solutions like Sleep Genius are invaluable, chiefly because they are highly effective through "completely natural" means.
So when it comes to new moms with newborns, health experts assert, solutions for sleeplessness are no longer limited to the prescription bottle.
And that may also be a prescient consideration for the rest of the restless U.S. population.
"Patients taking prescription sleep aids on a regular basis were nearly five times as likely as non-users to die over a period of two and a half years," the Well Blog's Roni Caryn Rabin reports, citing a recent study on pharmacology and therapeutics. "Even those prescribed fewer than 20 pills a year were at risk, the researchers found; heavy users also were more likely to develop cancer."