According to the Mirror this week, 1 in 3 Brits have been plagued by insomnia since the announcement of a double-dip recession. Increased stress levels regarding the global economic crisis, leading to sleeplessness, is costing the NHS £50 million a year in sleeping remedies.

The Co-operative Pharmacy has investigated the dispensing of sleeping pills by the health service and found costs have risen 17 per cent in four years between 2007/08 and 2010/11, up from £42m to £49.2m.

Zoplicone, also marketed under the brand names Zimovane and Zileze, is currently being dispensed to over 5 million people, making it the most popular (prescribed) sleeping tablet in the UK; despite its addictive attributes. Zoplicone, and other prescription sleeping medication can cause dependency in little over a week of continuous use. So as our demand for restful nights grow greater, thus our dependency strengthen, creating a vicious circle from which it’s sometimes very difficult to break free.

Similar to other sedative hypnotic drugs Zopiclone causes a decrease in the core body temperature and is effective in decreasing sleep latency.


Zopiclone reduces the total amount of time spent in REM sleep as well as delaying its onset. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be superior to Zopiclone in the treatment of insomnia and has been found to have lasting effects on sleep quality for at least a year after therapy.

One user wrote the following, a very sensible and analytical synopsis of his experience with the product:

It seems from reports that the main concerns over its use are due to a lack of information regarding its addictive qualities, and dependency among people with underlying emotional or psychological problems, increasing the tendency towards dependent behaviour. This however, can be said of virtually EVERY psychoactive drug! These factors should be considered before taking, but with cautious use, and no over-riding mental issues, I have found Zopiclone to be a highly effective sleep aid when used sparsely and responsibly.

So what’s the alternative? Aren’t herbal pills glorified (and expensive) placebos? Not necessarily. Research into some of the most popular herbal sleep aids on the market in the UK shows the main ingredients to be the following:

Hops, Valerian, Chamomile and Melatonin.

The melatonin is a given, as previously explored by the Breathing Relief blog. Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound in the human body, which is related to our Circadian Rhythm and therefore plays an extremely important part in our ability to sleep well.

Valerian is often referred to as nature’s Valium and is common treatment for anxiety based insomnia.

Hops is a plant native to Britain (therefore widely available) and is a large component in the creation of beverages such as beer. Consider how sleepy one gets after consuming several pints- and apply this concept to a sleep aid! Apparently somebody already did as it is currently being manufactured as a sleeping aid from a variety of retailers. Additionally, Hops Pillows are a natural (and fun) product which could provide relief from insomnia as well as a creative Birthday gift.

Ehow shows you how to create your own. [youtube]

Arts and crafts aside, it has to be taken in to consideration that a number of the holistic products available today are created using herbs and compounds which are not only non-addictive but also share properties with some of the prescription medicines being dished out by doctors.

So don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, the NHS needs all the money-saving tips it can get (along with the rest of us), so why not give hops a chance and save a pretty penny on your monthly prescription?