Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

Sleep and anti anxiety drugs increase your risk of dying - new study

Sleep and anti anxiety drugs increase your risk of dying - new study

A study of the effects of anti-anxiety and sleeping drugs published in the British medical Journal by researchers from the universities of Warwick, Keele, and two health trusts in the UK earlier this month have alarmed the health profession with results which are worrying to say the least.

Drugs to help people sleep and deal with anxiety are prescribed widely around the world, and are relied on by many on a regular basis. This collection of drugs, known as psychotropic medicines have already been the subject of a series of studies that have shown that they are addictive. However this study, has shown a direct link between these drugs and increase risk of early death.

The study looked at the death or mortality rates of people prescribed either anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) or hypnotic (sleep) and a control group who were not taking any prescribed medicines. Overall the records of 34,727 patients taking one of these drugs were compared to the records of 69,418 patients not taking them over a 7 and a half year period. What the researchers found was that there were 4% more deaths in the psychotropic drug taking group than in the control group over a 7 year period. The study also found that the more of these types of drugs you take the greater the risk of death becomes.

There are other issues with this collection of drugs. Studies have found that people taking these drugs are at 6 times the risk of hospitalisation due to car accidents, and also have increased risk of stroke, heart problems, birth defects, suicide and cancer.

Another issue from my perspective is that these drugs hide rather than deal with the underlying problem. Anxiety and sleep issues are largely cognitive or psychological issues which can successfully be dealt with as such, rather than reaching for what is turning out to be a quick fix. A fix that doesn't really solve the problem on a long term basis and as these studies are showing, can be dangerous.

Reference

Weich. S., (2014) Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study. BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1996 

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Sleep deprivation / insomnia restricts a persons ability to regulate their own emotions.

In an ongoing study at the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is revealing some interesting results about the effect sleep deprivation and insomnia has on an individuals ability to regulate their own emotions. The study, which uses fMRi analysis shows that people with insomnia and sleep deprivation have much higher levels of activation in the amygdala (the fear control centre of the brain) whilst engaged in emotion regulation tasks. This may be the first neurological evidence backing up other research that shows that people suffering from insomnia and sleep deprivation appear to have to work harder to successfully regulate their emotions than people with normal sleep patterns. Further there is a strong suggestion that the difficulties people with chronic sleep deprivation face regulating their emotions is as a result of alterations created in the brain's circuitry.

Now the question is, do the alterations cause sleep problems or do sleep problems cause the changes in the brains functioning. There is some evidence from other studies that both (bidirectionally) can happen. Sleep deprivation over a prolonged time can cause changes in the brains wiring and changes in the brain makes insomnia more likely. 

In any event this study provides even more evidence about the links between sleep our ability to regulate our emotions and how insufficient sleep may contribute to the onset of emotional difficulties as well as the development of depression and other psychological and psychiatric problems.

I am currently putting together a sleep pack to help those with sleep difficulties get more sleep. If you are interested getting details of the sleep pack once it is finished just pop your details into the boxes below and I will send you details once the pack is ready.

This offer expires in:

Reference

Franzen PL, et al, (2013) Elevated amygdala activation during voluntary emotion regulation in primary insomnia. 27th Joint Conference of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and The Sleep Research Society Baltimore June 1-5 2013.

 

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