We presented in a previous article the main risks related to taking sleeping pills over an extended period of time (Watch out for sleeping pills as you age). We also presented studies on the importance of deep and restful sleep for health (Health and lack of sleep as you age). It is important to know that taking sleeping pills does not allow a deep and restful sleep.
Recently we exposed the case of Mr. Luc Vigneault, a remarkable man, who stopped taking chemical sleeping pills after 40 years of use (Luc Vigneault trusted Vitoli to stop taking his sleeping pills).
Quitting the use of sleeping pills is one topic that raises the most questions on social media and it is always a pleasure in answering you all. We will therefore approach this question to give you useful advice, references to consult, and above all, steps to consider.
Unfortunately, with age, it becomes more difficult to fall asleep due to the decrease in the natural production of melatonin (the sleep hormone which also plays the role as a messenger for cellular repair). It is also more difficult to stay asleep or achieve a deep restful sleep due to stress and anxiety. Several other reasons can be involved: taking medication, phase shift in the circadian cycle, psychological problems and other health conditions such as pain.
Here are the 5 steps to help you:
1- Making the decision
It may sound simple, to really make the decision to stop the use of sleeping pills, but it makes sense to start by reviewing the reasons for doing so and think carefully about your sources of motivation. Staying healthy as you age is a good reason in itself, but also for the people around us. We invite you to read the text “Insomnia and Anxiety in Older People: Sleeping pills are usually not the best solution” which comes from the website, Choosing Wisely Canada, created by the Canadian Medical Association, the University of Toronto and the St. Michael’s Hospital.
2- Talk about it with people around you
Talking to people around you allows you to strengthen your motivation, while reducing the stress associated with this change. In many situations, we hesitate to talk about our problems and challenges for fear of over-stepping boundaries or being misunderstood. There is nothing wrong with sharing such an important decision and thereby offering our friends and loved ones the opportunity to help us in giving their advice or moral support for encouragement. This step, which is often overlooked, increases your chances for success.
3- Talking to your doctor and/or pharmacist
It is an obligation. It is always important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before stopping a medication. Two articles from the Vitoli® Blog explain the main reasons (Talk to your pharmacist (Article 1) and Talk to your pharmacist (Article 2)). Some drugs require more rigorous supervision than others, and stopping them could even cause serious health problems and/or side effects that are difficult to control. In some cases withdrawal can be done quickly, but in others it may take 6 to 8 months. Your healthcare professional will be able to support you in this process.
4- Proceed gradually, considering the type of medication administered
For some people taking sleeping pills has accompanied them for over thirty years. The more the drug is consumed, causing an addiction/dependency, the more difficult it will be to stop. The important thing here is to give yourself time to consider that you are on the right track and to be patient. Some people will succeed faster, others will take longer. It is better to take the necessary time required, than not to succeed and end up starting over. Your pharmacist is there to help you, with periodic follow-ups, to determine the time necessary for you.
5- Improve your sleep-related lifestyle habits
Up to 80% of people will have sleep problems, whether sporadic or permanent. This means that it is normal to have sleep problems and having to make an effort to improve our daily habits. Here are a few tips:
- Reserve at least an hour or more before bedtime to relax. Take this time to take a break and let go; it is not the time to try to solve the problems. Put off your tasks, your worries and your thoughts until tomorrow. Do things nice and easy. This relaxation step is necessary to lower the level of physiological activation and to add pleasure to your days.
- Develop a ritual before going to bed. The ritual conditions you to relax and to sleep. It becomes and association to the end of you daily activities.
- Go to bed only when you feel sleepy.
- Try not going to bed and wake up too late on weekends so as not to disturb your sleep pattern.
- Reserve your bed for sleep (and sexual activities!). It may be beneficial for some to include bedtime reading or television within the bedtime ritual, but it is usually not recommended. It’s not a good time to keep up with the news.
- Regular exercise helps improve the quality of sleep. However, avoid intense exercise three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.
- Do not eat heavily before going to bed.
- Limit the consumption of alcohol and nicotine.
- Reduce the exposure to computer screens, tablets and phones in the evening; the blue light they emit interferes with the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
- Establish a good sleep environment with as few distractions as possible: pets, noise, light, temperature, etc.
- Try relaxation techniques to help you relax physically and mentally.
- Avoid naps in the late afternoon or evening.
- Establish a regular wake-up schedule.
As for Vitoli® products, two are used for sleep problems: Vitoli® Sleep and Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety. They are often used to aid in the withdrawal from sleeping pills or after, as needed. You can take them as one or two capsules 30 to 40 minutes before going to bed. Usually Vitoli® Sleep is more effective, but some people will prefer to use Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety. It is also possible to take a capsule of each product.
- Pottie et al, 2018. Déprescription des agonistes des récepteurs des benzodiazépines. Guide de pratique clinique. Vol 64: MAY | MAI 2018|Canadian Family Physician | Le Médecin de famille canadien. 16 pages.
- Site Internet ‘’Choisir avec soin’’ : choisiravecsoin.org. Choisir avec soin est la version francophone de la campagne nationale Choosing Wisely Canada. Choisir avec soin agit comme porte-parole national pour la réduction des examens et des traitements inutiles en santé.
- Eric Simard, Dr en biologie et Jacques Lambert, MD : Vivre jeune DEUX fois plus longtemps, chapitre 12 : Sommeil. Marcel Broquet la nouvelle édition, 270 pages.