You can’t sleep. You’re lying awake staring at the ceiling. And frankly, as the minutes tick by you’re starting to feel a little desperate to get some shut eye before the sun comes up.

What do you do?

If you said reach for a sleeping pill, you’re not alone. In fact, millions of Americans—or one in four—take a sleep aid every year.

But could you be trading in a night of tossing and turning for a dangerous, or even deadly, heart attack? As bizarre as it sounds, if you take prescription sleeping pills a shocking new study on the risks of sleeping pills finds that you very well may be doing just that.

Researchers have linked the multi-billion-dollar sleep drug Ambien to a staggering fifty-percent increase in heart-attack risk. And while this is the first time the drug has been directly linked to heart problems, it isn’t the first time Ambien has come under fire.

In fact, it was nearly a year ago that I first warned you about a bizarre new side effect linked to the drug—next day impairment. Some Ambien users who took the drug to sleep at night were unknowingly driving high, and doing other everyday activities, all while still under the influence of the drug the next morning.

The reports were so shocking that the typically complacent FDA even arose from its slumber and spoke up. The usually drug-friendly organization issued a warning of their own, and forced the manufacturer to slash their recommended dosage of Ambien in half for women, and strongly encouraged changes for men, too.

And another earlier study found that sleeping pill users (including those taking Ambien) are more likely to develop cancer than non-users. Even worse, they’re five times more likely to die young!

Heart-attack risk skyrocketed!

But now Taiwanese scientists say, if you take the drug on a regular basis, downing the equivalent of 60 of the pills in a year (not at all difficult for a chronic insomniac), you could unwittingly send your heart-attack risk shooting through the roof—causing it to skyrocket by as much as 50 percent.

And if you’re a more moderate user, don’t start celebrating yet. Just four standard-dose pills could cause your risk to soar by around 20 percent, according to the study.

Researchers compared 5,000 heart attack victims to 20,000 healthy adults. And to everyone’s surprise, they found a significantly higher rate of heart attacks in people who were taking zolpidem, the generic name for the active ingredient in Ambien.

Shocking sleeping pill risks and side effects

But potential sleep-drug-side-effects don’t stop there, not by a long shot.

In one study, zolpidem was shown to increase a healthy adult’s fall risk by 27 percent. And if you’re a senior taking the drug, your fall risk could shoot up by 58 percent, according to the same study.

Sleeping pills risks have also been linked to a 50 percent increase in dementia in seniors.

And perhaps most bizarrely of all, they’ve been linked to eating, sleeping, driving, and even having sex, all while, technically, still slumbering.

Natural shut eye tricks

Now for the good news—you don’t need to fall into the prescription-sleep-pill trap. You can start with the most obvious change, which is to simply reduce or eliminate stimulants like coffee, soda and caffeinated teas from your diet.

Next turn your bedroom into a sleep haven.

Remove the TV, adjust the temperature (slightly cooler temps are usually best for sleep), try adding a white noise machine and ban stimulating backlit devices like iPads and cell phones.

Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Blackout shades can keep bothersome outside light from getting in. And get rid of any sneaky light sources like digital alarm clocks or blinking electronic equipment.

Supplements of l-tryptophan, GABA, 5-HTP, chamomile, valerian or the hormone melatonin can be helpful, too. And, surprisingly, just 500 milligrams of simple magnesium can help a lot of people with sleep issues get some much-needed shut eye. Talk with a doctor skilled in natural medicine for advice on the best combination of natural sleep aids for your own situation.

Give the natural approach a try and before you know it you’ll be slipping off to sleep without having to face the potentially devastating and deadly side effects of a sleeping pill.