Study Supports Latinos’ Choice of Warm Milk over Sleeping Pills

A recent study found that people who use sleeping medications could increase the risk of premature death, raising alarms since a high proportion of Americans use those drugs. But this translated article from El Diario La Prensa asserts that Latinos have long-eschewed prescription sleeping medicines in favor of natural remedies.

Latinos prefer herbs remedies for sleep (Photo by La Opinión / Archivo)

It might seem that Latinos living in New York are “playing it safe” (as the refrain goes) when it comes to taking sleep medications and avoiding the risks they entail.

Over the course of a study carried out in Jackson Heights, Queens, all of the Latinos surveyed said that to cure sleeping problems, they prefer natural or homemade remedies such as herbal tea, instead of taking pills or medicine prescribed by a doctor.

For Latinos, this thousand-year-old practice passed from generation to generation keeps at bay the risks associated with pills and modern drugs that millions of Americans currently use – and abuse – in order to get some sleep.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal, maintains that sleeping medications, including the sleeping pills or sedatives that doctors commonly prescribe, can increase the risk of premature death fourfold, especially if they are taken in high doses or used daily.

According to the data from the study, which surveyed more than 10,000 adults in Pennsylvania, medications belonging to the class known as benzodiazepines, like Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and other barbiturates, carry a 4.6 percent higher risk of death.

“Sleeping pills are hazardous to your health, and could lead to death by helping to cause cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses,” explained Daniel F. Kripke, M.D., of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center at Scripps Health in San Diego, and one of the authors of the study.

“Broadly speaking, the data suggest that in 2010, sleeping medications could have caused between 320,000 and 507,000 deaths in the United States,” the study asserts.

The details of how the individuals died were not revealed, and the authors stressed that they found a statistical relationship, but not a cause.

What is certain is that the research has raised an alarm, given the large number of people that use sleeping medications. It is estimated that 10 percent of adults in the United States used these types of drugs in 2010.

However, it’s a different story in the Latino community. Whether due to a lack health insurance, custom, or tradition, when it comes to sleeping well, many Latinos prefer to use natural medicine or to follow the recipes of their grandmothers.

“Personally, I boil milk,” said Jenny Orozco, a 57-year-old Colombian living in Jackson Heights, Queens. “I put a little bit of sugar or honey in it, and that is like a sedative. At least I sleep without needing to take pharmaceutical drugs or chemicals. It’s all natural.”

The list of products and relaxation-inducing infusions is as long as users’ imaginations can go when it comes time to prepare their remedies: various types of tea including chamomile, Valerian, lavender, lime, lemon balm, lemongrass or boiled lettuce water. Many of these products are sold at botanical shops and at bodegas in Latino neighborhoods, and some people also bring them from their own countries.

Other Latinos that don’t take any kind of medicine turn to rituals and practices that, according to them, help them get to sleep. Many meditate before going to bed, while others listen to music made for relaxation. Some like taking a warm bath, and there are others who put a piece of fresh lettuce underneath their pillow.

But remember, whatever method you use, sleeping is not a luxury; it’s a necessity that affects your health. If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, it is recommended that you consult with a doctor in order to find out what kinds of treatment are available, and which one would be best for your personal circumstances.

Sleep disorders could lead to other chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, hypertension, obesity, and depression. To a great extent, all of these are medical conditions that affect Latinos living in the United States.

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