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Are Sleeping Pills Safe?

Written By
Chris Elkins, M.A.
This page features
9 Cited Research Articles

While sleeping pills may provide relief for individuals struggling with chronic sleep issues, they also pose a danger to those who use them. Prolonged sleeping pill use can lead to addiction and a number of health-related consequences.

Sleeping medications are often used as a quick way to treat symptoms of insomnia, which are commonly caused by an underlying sleep disorder. Habitual sleeping pill users, even those taking them as properly prescribed, can easily become reliant on the medication to fall sleep. This can lead to a number of health consequences, including physical and psychological addiction.

Research suggests that the most effective method to cure chronic insomnia is to treat the underlying disorder rather than simply use sleeping pills. Cognitive behavioral therapy, in which individuals learn how to change their behaviors to promote better sleeping patterns, is considered the most effective treatment for chronic insomnia.

There are other natural steps individuals can take to improve their sleep habits, including:

Identifying the underlying cause of insomnia or a sleep disorder should be the first course of action, and you should only resort to sleeping pills when medically necessary.

Safely Using Sleeping Medications

Generally, sleeping pills are most effective when not used habitually. They may be helpful for individuals who require a sleep aid for travel or experience disrupted sleep or irregular stress that may be hindering their normal sleeping patterns. However, prolonged use of sleeping pills may diminish the effectiveness of the medication.

The dosage, frequency and length of a medication regimen are important for a patient’s safety and should be determined by a doctor with experience in treating sleeping disorders.

When deciding if a sleeping medication is the right course of action for an individual, the prescribing doctor should:

If your doctor immediately prescribes sleeping pills and does not take the steps listed above, you may want to consider seeing another doctor or a sleep specialist.

Types of Sleeping Medications

Doctors prescribe many different kinds of sleeping medications, each with its own set of side effects and intended treatment purpose. Historically, doctors treated sleep issues with benzodiazepines, central nervous system depressant medications that can have serious side effects. Newer non-benzodiazepines have fewer potentially dangerous side effects, but do not come without risks.

The majority of available prescription sleeping pills can be addictive, abusing the prescription drugs increases the chance of becoming addicted.

The sleeping medications that can lead to addiction include:

Patients considering sleeping pills as a treatment option for sleep issues should ask their doctor about the side effects and potential for addiction development before beginning a medication regimen.

Sleeping Pill Side Effects

Although certain sleeping medications can cause unique side effects, general sleeping pill side effects include:

Before taking a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid, talk to your doctor about the potential side effects.

Other Dangers from Sleeping Pills

Combining certain behaviors or activities with sleeping pill use can lead to increased risks of danger and harm to you and others. These behaviors include:

The behavioral and long-term side effects of sleeping pills could potentially have a serious impact on your life and your health, so it is important to take them into consideration.

Sleeping Pill Addiction

Many individuals become reliant on sleeping medications to sleep every night and quickly become addicted. Quitting on their own is often not an option because many sleeping medications require a gradual reduction in dosage to safely discontinue use. Additionally, many individuals experience uncomfortable withdrawals when trying to end their sleeping pill habit. Treatment is available for those with sleeping medication addictions, and it can help individuals return to a normal life and healthy sleep patterns.

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