The nightmare of sleep medications

Picture this: You're lying awake at night, unable to sleep because of some bad memories. Eventually, you're so tired and miserable that you do something you know you shouldn't.

You pop some sleep medications.

The drug does its job and you fall asleep. But the next day, you face the same problem all over again -- and this time, it's even worse as you just can't seem to shake those bad memories.

Your doctor might blame an overactive mind or some kind of psychological problem and send you off to see a shrink who'll give you even more drugs.

But in reality, it's possible this whole vicious cycle is actually being caused by sleep mediciations.

It's a little ironic, since sleep medications are linked to memory loss. But one new study finds a popular sleep medication may also enhance certain memories -- just not the ones you'd like to keep around.

In a series of experiments, volunteers were shown good, bad and neutral images before taking a drug with zolpidem, the active ingredient in medications such as Ambien. When they woke up, they were tested -- and it turned out they were much more likely to remember the emotionally negative images.

This isn't just coincidental. The researchers behind the study in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience say it's because of how the drug affects what's known as "sleep spindles."

Those are little bursts of brain activity that collect your emotional memories as you sleep. Zolpidem appears to alter those spindles so they soak up memories with negative emotions.

That's bad news for anyone -- but it's a nightmare for patients with sleep disorders caused by post-traumatic stress disorder and similar conditions.

On the other hand, as far as side effects go, this is hardly the worst these drugs can dish out, since sleep medications have been linked to an increased risk of everything from dementia to death.

And those are risks you just don't have to face.

Many sleep disorders are caused by nutritional problems, hormonal imbalances, lifestyle issues or all of the above. Work with a holistic doctor to identify that cause and correct it naturally.

(For some, insomnia can come from a surprising source that you're literally carrying around with you every single day. Click here to find out what it is.)

In the meantime, there are safe short-term solutions that can help you get to sleep tonight -- including melatonin, GABA, theanine and Inositol.

If you're in the Southern California area, I can help with both the short-term battle and the long-term solution. Contact my clinic at 1-855-DOC-MARK for more information or to make an appointment, and never suffer another sleepless night again.