If you currently have a prescription for Alprazolam (the generic version of Xanax), then odds are that you are no stranger to being kept awake at night by overwhelming anxiety. And while it may be effective in the short (and even medium) term for anxiety relief, there are some serious dangers associated with taking it over the long haul.
Although alprazolam is mostly used for anxiety, it is still a type of tranquilizer known as a benzodiazepine. These particular drugs are well known for making people feel sedated; therefore, it isn't uncommon for people to use alprazolam at night to help them fall asleep. But that short term insomnia relief may come at a steep price. Using alprazolam for too long, especially at night for sleep problems, can do physical damage that makes it extremely difficult to get quality, restorative sleep once you're off the drug. And that can have a serious negative impact on your overall health.
Like many other compounds that produce a sedative effect, alprazolam works by binding to GABA receptors in the brain. When something other than GABA bonds to a GABA receptor, it's like a game of musical chairs; the alprazolam molecules are taking up all the seats, leaving GABA nowhere to sit. Since the GABA has nowhere else to go, it gets to flow freely around your neuronal synapses. And when your synapses are full of GABA, you feel calmer and more relaxed.
If you only use benzodiazepines for a short while - no more than a few weeks - you won't notice anything more than the sedative effects. However, medium- and long-term use can lead to permanent damage of your sleep architecture, which accumulates a buildup of chronic sleep deprivation over time.
What does "sleep architecture" mean? Well, contrary to popular belief, not all sleep is created equal. Your brain goes through several different "sleep cycles" per night during a healthy night's sleep, and each cycle has several distinct stages which are necessary in order to repair damage, create permanent memories, and flush toxic materials out of every cell in your body.
When benzodiazepine dependence disrupts your sleep architecture, it inhibits your body's ability to sleep properly in two different ways. For starters, it can limit the number of sleep cycles your body goes through in a given night, leading to a sleep deficit that weakens nearly every aspect of your health. Furthermore, trying to get natural sleep post-benzos may reduce the amount of time you spend in specific stages of each sleep cycle. This becomes especially worrisome if, for example, NREM stages 3 and 4 become shortened or disrupted. These are some of the most restorative sleep stages for your body, and getting less time in them will lead to premature aging and chronic disease.
Even in the short term, sleep deprivation can have some detrimental consequences for your health. And with long-term sleep deprivation, the symptoms only get exponentially worse with time:
So as you can see, taking drugs like Alprazolam for extended periods of time can be very hazardous. But don't despair - there is hope. There are plenty of safe, effective alternatives out there that can help you relax when it's time for bed.
These days, people who are having problems with sleep and anxiety are quick to reach for the strongest drug they can find. But more often than not, such pharmaceuticals are excessive, unnecessary, and - in the long term - worse than the disease they are intended to treat.
It's in the best interest of your long-term health to start with a natural remedy. And yes - believe it or not - there are herbal sleeping pills out there that are on par with drugs like Alprazolam. Our favorite is Avinol PM. Its unique formula incorporates natural botanicals, amino acids, and even melatonin - the body's "sleep hormone". You'll feel relaxed, sedated, and it'll be easier for you to drift off into a peaceful, restful slumber. Don't risk your long-term health on dangerous prescription drugs. Give Avinol a try instead.