Sources of travel advice very frequently recommend the use of sleeping pills to grab sleep when travelling. That is ill-advised of them because that is medical advice, not travel advice. Our article How to sleep on board an aircraft conspicuously avoided this.
Our recommendation: go to a really good doctor who is well versed in the latest research.
Here is why.
First off, sleeping pills do not really work!
- On average sleeping pills reduce the time taken to fall asleep by less than 13 minutes!
- You only sleep 11 minutes longer than you would have without taking them.
- For many people the quality of sleep obtained using sleeping pills is not satisfactory.
Source: 2007 NIH Study, quoted in New York Times “Sleep drugs found only mildly effective, but wildly popular”
Next up: there are side-effects
- There are side-effects, which include memory loss, dizziness, reduced cognitive capacity, being dozy the day after use, and rebound insomnia.
- There are potentially dangerous interactions with other drugs, or alcohol.
- Traveller’s amnesia. Some passengers who have taken sleeping pills to cope with jet lag have got lost or forgotten where they were!
Finally, they may kill you, even when used for only a short period
- Sleeping pill users have 3.6 times the risk of early death, even with fewer than 18 pills prescribed per year. This also applies to new generation short-acting drugs like Eszopiclone, Zaleplon and Zolpidem.
- Up to 35% greater risk of cancer.
Get medical advice from doctors. Get travel advice from DIY Travel Expert.
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