In the rush of our busy lives, it seems that logging adequate sleep each night has gotten lost in our steadily growing list of priorities, to-do’s, and social engagements. In fact, in 2010, up to 10% of the adult population in the United States took sleeping pills because falling asleep naturally simply eluded them!

But, while sleep aids may help us to get the shuteye we desperately crave, even taking sleeping pills infrequently may lead to serious health consequences down the road. Keep reading to find out the real dangers associated with reliance on sleep aids and how to fall asleep naturally each and every night.

Are you currently taking a nightly sleeping pill? If so, you could be seriously jeopardizing your health. Sleep studies have shown that “prescription sleeping pill use was associated with significantly increased mortality.”

According to a study published in the BMJ Open journal, when being prescribed any hypnotic–such as zolpidem (Ambien), temazepam, eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon, other benzodiazepines (like Ativan, Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin), barbiturates and sedative antihistamines–“users suffered from substantially elevated hazards of dying compared to those prescribed no hypnotics.”

In an interview with CNN, Arizona State University sleep researcher Shawn Youngstedt said, “Sleeping pills are extremely hazardous…They are as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Not to mention they cause infections, falling and dementia in the elderly, and they lose their effectiveness after a few weeks.”

Studies show that the very serious dangers of sleeping pills also include the following:

So, what can you do to get a healthy night’s sleep without putting your health, life, and wellness at risk? Research shows that two things are integral to getting quality shuteye:

Exercise: In an interview with Time Magazine, Cheri Mah–a sleep medicine researcher at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco–discussed the strong correlation between regular exercise and high quality sleep. Mah asserts, “When you look at the research, regular physical activity is important for high quality sleep, and high quality sleep is important for physical performance.”

On the benefits of exercise as they relate to sleep quality, Youngstedt is in agreement. He explains that exercise is a less expensive, healthier alternative to sleeping pills, and adds “as an added bonus: Research suggests those who are physically active have a lower risk of developing insomnia in the first place.”

For best results, shoot for 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and two, full-body strength training sessions each week. Bonus points if you can workout outside. Because light exposure helps regulate the body’s internal clock, working out in bright light can promote even better sleep.

Mattress quality: While exercise may help you to fall asleep more quickly, a supportive mattress can help to stay sleeping solidly throughout the night. One of the largest studies ever conducted on normal, pain-free sleepers evaluated how different mattress support levels impact sleep, pain, and daytime functioning.

Conducted over a four-year period and evaluating 128 subjects, this study proves that mattress firmness has significant effects on sleep and daytime function. Additionally, very low and very high levels of firmness were associated with “relatively worse sleep, greater morning pain, and poorer daytime function.”

Furthermore, the study goes on to say that “this finding raises the possibility that the ordinary showroom experience does not lead individuals to select the mattress that results in best sleep over a more extended period.” For a truly exceptional mattress that offers just the right amount of firmness and support, take advantage of Nuvanna’s 100-night risk free trial.