What if I told you that the long-term use of prescription sleeping pills increased your risk of death by 3-5 times even if you only took it once a year?
Researchers at Scripps Clinic, headquarters in San Diego, stated, “Even among patients who were prescribed 1 to 18 sleeping pills per year, the risk of death was 3.6 times higher than among similar participants who did not take the medications. The study looked at patients aged 18 years and older, and found the increased risk in all age groups.”
It’s no secret that sleeping pills are popular among flight attendants across the globe. When you have your clock flip there’s sometimes no other option to fall sleep. So what does this say about flight attendants health-wise? Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Flight Attendant was quoted in Brian Finke’s “Flight Attendants”. Because she speaks German, right at hire Simonetti was awarded overseas routes from Orlando to Frankfurt. “We had a 24-hour layover, so the jet lag was really bad. A lot of flight attendants are addicted to sleeping pills.”
And it’s true. Not just that it’s used often and addictive, but it may just be necessary. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published these results in a sleep study in June of 2000:
“Our observations indicate that FAs experience increased sleep disturbance, which may be an indicator of circadian rhythm disruption.”
What exactly does that mean? Web MD says, “The term circadian comes from Latin words that literally mean around the day. There are patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other biological activities linked to this 24-hour cycle.
The circadian “clock” in humans is located mainly in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is a group of cells located in the hypothalamus (a portion of the brain). Circadian rhythms are important in determining human sleeping patterns.”
In other words, when your circadian rhythm is off you don’t reproduce cells as quickly-for healing, for youthful skin, and for a “fit” brain. It also can caused increased appetite, high cortisol levels that potentially block DHEA. Insufficient levels of DHEA contribute to fatigue, but are also associated with reduced muscle mass, bone loss, aching joints, decreased sex drive, impaired immune function, and depression. Boo!
With this recent study release, people are up in a frenzy. In the last 10 years it’s been estimated that sleeping pills such as Ambien and Lunesta have been prescribed at exponential rates, meaning more people than ever are taking prescription medication for sleep.
One doctor is adamant to educate the public about the risks. He published 35 years of research at
. Near the end of his web book, he states that more research needs to be done before people are allowed to take these medications, it’s a no-brainer.
Because of that small window of possibility created by the need for more research, in the meantime, sleeping pills continue to be ingested everywhere. At the CNN Health site, a post revealed industry criticism of the “conclusive” mortality risks. The primary argument: If we don’t know WHAT it is in a sleeping pill that creates this “likely” cancer or increased mortality risk, we can’t say for sure that it is truly the problem. Comments by the public are critical, too. People are frustrated that we’re talking about healthy and unhealthy people of such a wide range of variables- so saying an earlier death was caused by 18 pills of Ambien over 2 years? They say it’s preposterous.
My personal take? I am certain the drug companies are not in favor of research that conflicts with their bottom (financial) line. A lot of propaganda will be published to keep the public uncertain and therefore continue the use of their drugs. If enough of these studies are reflecting terrifying research results, it’s not a bad idea to readdress any sleeping stuggles and come up with a plan to naturally tackle the problem of sleeplessness.
As flight attendants, we ought to be begging for more search for our particular work group. The biggest resource I found was NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health); In partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Cancer Institute, the HHS Office of Women’s Health and the Department of Defense Women’s Health Research Program, NIOSH has established a program of research for the cabin crew occupational group. The few studies they’ve published can be found HERE. They don’t have any recent news about current studies and the last one published was on pilots in June 2011 and before that, in 2008.
With the new information posted about sleeping pills, flight attendants need to be analyzed and studied for the purpose to keep our work group informed, proactive, and educated. Furthermore, the isolated study of the use of sleeping pills will contribute to the overall conclusions on whether or not regular/intermittent use is, in fact, an extreme health hazard.
Do you agree? Do you want to know what the use of sleeping aids means for the lives of prescribed flight attendants? Call or shoot a quick email to NIOSH to remind them we’re eager to see more studies done and especially if you’d like to volunteer. We need to know more.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
TTY: (888) 232-6348
Fly safe, my friends.