All posts by mika01pd2014

Sleeping Pills: Should you use them or not?

Sometimes at night I see my mother drinking sleeping pills before she goes to her bed.  She complains that she is unable to sleep well these days because of stress.  Similarly, I have difficulty sleeping too, and it is irritating when you are really tired and your body wants to rest but you can’t just fall asleep.  So I once asked her if I could have a tiny piece of the tablet she usually takes, but just as I thought, she said no.  She told me that it will cause addiction and it is bad for our body health.  Indeed, people get dependent to sleeping pills just like drugs, and I knew that people sometimes give themselves fatal overdose to commit suicide.  However New York Times reported that although the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved any sleeping pills for use by children, an estimated 180,000 Americans under age 20 take prescription sleep aids anyway.  (Join Together, 2005)  Let’s take the teenagers who are physically close to adults aside, but wouldn’t that be harmful for the little kids?

Sleeping pills are one of the sedatives that depress the central nervous system of the human body.  Over the counter sleeping pills contain antihistamine, which is the same medication found in allergy medicine.  To produce sleepiness, antihistamine does the opposite of histamine, which releases a neurotransmitter to produce awakeness.   Antihistamine contains diphenhydramine hydrochloride or doxylamine succinate, and both ingredients send a signal to the brain to depress the central nervous system.  (Fryer, n.d.)  To be more specific, the neurotransmitter, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (commonly known as GABA for short) is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that tends to cause the brain to “calm down”, and the active ingredients in the sleeping pill reduces the ability of nerves by altering a cell’s membrane potential causing less neuronal activity.  (Terix, n.d.)  Furthermore it also influences the levels of tryptophan, serotonin (a calming neurotransmitter), melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone).  This in turn leads to relaxation, relief from anxiety, induction of sleep, and suppression of seizure-activity.

However, there is a reason why sleeping pills are said to be bad for our health other than problems arising from addiction and withdrawal symptoms.  Many studies have found connection between regularly taking sleep aids and an increased risk of death and cancer.  One study discovered that “those who took 1 to 18 pills of any sleep aid or hypnotic medication per year had a greater than three-fold increased risk of early death.  Heavy hypnotic users were 35% more likely to develop a new cancer.” (Oz, 2013)  There are no clear explanations for this connection, however the connection between the use of sleeping pills and the risks of suicide and risky behavior, such as impaired driving, is quite obvious.

By looking at these facts it is natural that parents keep their children away from taking one.  However, it is not just adults who suffer from sleeping disorders such as insomnia.  Synthetic Melatonin supplements have been used as a solution for helping restless children sleep.  Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in human body that helps control the sleep-wake cycle, and its natural levels in the blood are highest at night. (Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2009)  Lights tend to decrease production of melatonin, causing the body to stay awake, which explains why people sleep well in dark rooms rather than in well-lit rooms.  The supplements appear to have a good safety records, and have successfully corrected the sleep-wake cycle of a blind child with multiple disabilities too.  Since melatonin comes from natural hormones, the side effects are milder compared to those sleeping pills that contains antihistamine.

Structure of Melatonin (Remedium, n.d)

However it doesn’t mean that melatonin has no bad side to it, and doctors believe those supplements should only be used for the most serious sleep and neurological disorders.  Still, some doctors say that parents are missing the point and give their children melatonin supplements when they don’t need to.  One mother has confessed that at night she “lines up her six healthy children nightly to give them their melatonin pill” because she is stressed out from taking care of her children after the hard work she had done that day.  Dr.Ditchek in New York University School of Medicine is concerned that the melatonin supplement may interact with other hormones in the body, potentially affecting fertility or sexual development, and further study is necessary for the serious problems that melatonin may have. (Wallace, 2013)

In this stressful world, sleeping pills have an undeniable appeal to people who suffer from sleepless nights.  However after this research I realized that we should try not to use nor rely on them because natural things are best for our body health and sleep isn’t an exception.  It is important to be aware of both beneficial and harmful side of what we use in our daily lives.  In conclusion, people should try to change their life habits (like stay away from coffee and PC before sleeping) before they reach for their sleeping pills.


Join Together. (Nov 16,2005). Many Kids Taking Sleeping Pills. In The Partnership at Retrieved from

Fryer, L. (n.d.). How Does a Sleeping Pill Work?. In eHow. Retrieved from

Terix, F. (n.d.). Sleeping pills: How do they help you sleep?. In HubPages. Retrieved from

Rao, N. (Feb 28,2012). Sleeping pills: how tiny dose can kill. In Daily Express. Retrieved from

Oz, M. (Feb 11, 2013). What You Don’t Know About Your Sleeping Pills. In The Dr. Oz Show. Retrieved from

Therapeutic Research Faculty. (2009). MELATONIN: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. In WebMD. Retrieved from

Wallace, J. (June 28, 2013). Melatonin: A ‘Magic’ Sleeping Pill for Children?. In Retrieved from

Images Cited

ALAMY. (n.d.). medicine. The telegraph. Retrieved from

Remedium. (n.d.). melatonin. A 2 Z Health and Beauty. Retrieved from

Appreciating the Colors

A few days ago, I was really sick of the flood of assignments that I had to deal with, so I decided to devote some time to my hobby for a change.  Drawing is one of the best things I like to do most, and for coloring I use colored pencils habitually because of its convenience.  However, on that day, I was already tired of holding a pencil and felt like holding a paintbrush instead.  So I pulled my watercolor set that was not used for a long time from my room.  Then I thought, “Although I own many painting tools, and have noticed of words like pigments, I’ve never wondered how these actually work.  If I could figure out what is happening inside these paints, that knowledge will not only be useful when I paint, but it should also form a bridge between the world of science and art in my mind.”  So I decided to use this opportunity to do a research on how chemistry is involved in the manufacturing process of paints.

(Figure 1)

Each paint manufacturer has their original composition – a basic recipe for their products – that is designed to keep the costs under control and to get the best possible handling attributes for every pigment in the watercolor line.  However they often use the same ingredients. (Figure1)

(1) One or more pigments, which will add color to the paint.  (2) A brightener, white or transparent crystals that will brighten the dried paint.  (3) A binder, as known as gum Arabic or synthetic glycol that makes the paint to form a film when dried.  (4) A plasticizer, often glycerin, to help the binder to redissolve.    (5) A humectant, traditionally simple syrup or honey but now often inexpensive corn syrup, to help the paint retain moisture.  (6) An extender or filler, such as dextrin, to thicken the paint without affecting the color.  (7) Manufacturing additives, such as dispersant and preservatives.  Dispersants prevent clumping of the raw pigment after manufacture and speed up the milling of ingredients.  Fungicide is added as a preservative and suppresses the growth of mold or bacteria.  (8) Finally, the water, which dissolves or suspends all the ingredients, carries them onto the paper, and evaporates when its work is done.  (MacEvoy, 2005)

After looking at the function of each ingredient in watercolor paint, and found out that pigment is the one in paint that’s actually creating all kinds of vibrant colors, I got curious and did some further research on pigments.  Pigments are very fine powders that have their own color, chemical, and physical properties. (Matsukawa, 2002)  They are usually of mineral or organic origin although some, such as lead white, are artificially produced. (Janson, 2013)  For example, Cobalt blue that artists use it for high quality blue, chemically is a Cobalt(II) aluminate, CoAl2O4, a product of reaction between Cobalt(II) chloride and Aluminum chloride.  The two substances undergo a “sintering” process, that is, they are grinded together, then heated to form a bond. (Chemicalland21, 2013)

For this reason, chemical reactions play an important role in the manufacturing stage of paints to offer us a wide range of colors.  However, once the paint comes into action, the chemical reaction can mess around with our artwork.  I assume that most of the artists would have encountered this problem at least once: One puts his work on sunny place to let it dry, then he notices a slight color change when the artwork compared to when it was still wet.  I read an interesting article about Van Gogh’s painting losing their shine due to chemical reaction, reciting that, “The yellow pigment, used by Van Gogh has been undergoing a chemical reaction when exposed to ultraviolet light (including sunlight) that turns the outer layers of the painting brown. …This sunlight triggers a chemical reaction that turns the bright yellow into a dirty brown. “(Welsh, J) This change of color was caused because the Chromium in the yellow pigment had gained electrons due to the UV light from the sun, hence reduced to Chromium(VI) to Chromium(III).

It is such a wonder that chemistry can both enhance and spoil the beauty of art.  This research had raised my knowledge as an art student, and more importantly, it also made me want to dig more into the world of chemistry, in other words it strengthened my curiosity.  In my opinion being curious about what kind of science is involved in the real world is necessary for IB chemistry students.  In conclusion, this research had taught me that being vividly aware of science behind any subjects can benefit us in many aspects.


MacEvoy, B. (2005). how watercolor paints are made. handprint. Retrieved from

Matsukawa, N. (2002). What is PIGMENT?.  All about painting materials and Techniques. Retrieved from

Janson, J. (2013). The Anatomy of Pigment and Binder. Vermeer’s palette. Retrieved from

AroKor Holdings Inc. (2013). COBALT BLUE. Chemicalland21. Retrieved from

Welsh, J. (February 14, 2011). Chemical Reaction Darkens Van Gogh Luster. LiveScience. Retrieved from

Images Cited

MacEvoy, B. (2005). schematic backbone composition of a modern watercolor paint. handprint. Retrieved from

Hafizov, I. (n.d.). pigments. Chemistry Explained. Retrieved from