Are Sleeping Pills Safe?
Sleeping pills have possible negative effects on your body and your sleep. Those with insomnia or experiencing jet lag may find the use of sleeping pills an effective way to combat symptoms. Similar to alcohol, sleeping pills seem to aid in falling asleep and having a deep sleep when they actually produce a disrupted, fragmented sleep that can cause one to feel drowsy during the day. 1 It is important to figure out which medication, if any, would work best for your particular sleep situation.
Common Side Effects:
All medications have side effects, and sleeping pills’ side effects tend to happen more outside of sleep. Some side effects include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Loss of balance
- Appetite changes
- Unusual dreams
Some side effects will be worse for certain individuals, especially those with existing disorders.
Sleeping pills have been proven to work well when used over a short period of time of no longer than six months; however, after an extended period of time, your body will begin to develop a dependence on the medication. 1 This dependence is found in addictive medications such as Benzodiazepines (the type of pill most often prescribed for insomnia). Benzodiazepines are typically antidepressants and cause drowsiness. 2
Medication to help with sleep should never be taken when pregnant. This is because the same addictive qualities that cause adults to become dependent on medication can also happen to a child. No sleeping medication has been proven to be safe for unborn children.
Even after just a few nights using a sleeping pill, the body begins to depend on the medication making it harder to attempt to sleep without it. Minor withdrawal symptoms such as bad dreams and worse insomnia than before use of the medication may occur just a few days after beginning use. 1
While some medications are being developed that claim to be non-habit forming, all medications used consistently will strengthen your tolerance to them requiring more of the medication for the same effects. 2 Any medication in excess is harmful to the body.
If suffering from a respiratory disorder such as asthma or sleep apnea, sleeping pills and accelerate the problem and make breathing more difficult. This is because some sleeping pills are respiratory depressants. Additionally, complications with sleep apnea and depressants such as sleeping pills and alcohol have been reported to cause the individual to be too medicated to realize they have stopped breathing so the body’s natural reaction that corrects the problem is subdued. Additionally, taking a sleeping pill regularly before determining the cause of the insomnia can make it difficult to even identify the true problem.
It is advised to always talk to your doctor before using any sort of sleeping pills. Some sleeping pills can have extremely negative side effects, and, because all individuals respond differently to different medications, it is extremely important to ensure sleeping pills are the right choice for you. It is best to take less extreme measures when it comes to sleep such as making the bedroom more conducive to sleep or considering natural sleep remedies such as melatonin, herbal teas or aromatherapy. Sleeping pills should always be the last option. When using sleeping pills, it is necessary to read all directions and side effects so as to not unintentionally misuse the medication.
- Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.
- WebMD—Understanding the Side Effects of Sleeping Pills; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/understanding-the-side-effects-of-sleeping-pills