What are the side effects of sleeping pills?
If you haven’t slept in days or weeks, taking sleeping pills may seem like the only solution. You can take a pill, and shortly afterwards, drift off into sleep. It’s undoubtedly a welcome thought for a restless sleeper.
But while sleeping pills can be very effective, they can come with harmful side effects. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about sleeping pills and the side effects you need to look out for.
What are sleeping pills?
Sleeping pills are medications taken to help people fall asleep faster when dealing with sleep disorders like insomnia. They can also increase the duration of sleep and prevent you from waking up multiple times a night.
Popular sleeping medications include:
- Ramelteon (Rozerem): it targets your sleep-wake cycle and doesn’t show any evidence of causing dependence.
- Zaleplon (Sonata): it doesn’t stay active in the body for a long time and won’t make you feel drowsy the next day.
- Zolpidem (Ambien): although a powerful medication to take for inducing sleep, some people still wake up during the night when taking it.
- Suvorexant (Belsomra): it can help treat insomnia, but many people report feeling sleepy the day after taking it.
Are sleeping pills right for you?
Sleeping pills have helped many people with insomnia get the sleep that they need. For some, they can improve their quality of life. But they are not for everyone and should still be taken with caution, as they can have harmful side effects.
People respond differently to different medications and treatments. Sleeping pills may be right for you and not for your friend. You may also try one sleeping pill, which doesn’t work well for you, and believe that none of them will. But the truth is that if you want to take a sleeping pill, you may need to try a few different ones to find one that works well for you.
If you prefer the all-natural approach, you might want to try more natural sleep aids like valerian root before considering pharmaceuticals. Other lifestyle changes you can incorporate to fix a bad sleeping pattern are:
- Getting sunlight exposure early in the day
- Getting enough exercise
- Not overeating before bed and avoiding foods that disrupt sleep
- Avoiding digital screens before bed
- Developing a relaxing pre-bed routine
- Setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time
Taking sleeping pills is an individual choice. Nobody should be ashamed for taking them, and you shouldn’t be pressured into taking them if you don’t want to.
Sleeping pills side effects
Sleeping pills can have various side effects, one of them being that they can be addictive and habit-forming. The dependence can be physical or psychological.
A lot of people become psychologically affected by sleeping pills and become anxious at the thought of having to try to fall asleep without them.
You can also build up a tolerance for certain medications like benzodiazepines and then they stop working.
Other side effects you can experience when taking sleeping pills include:
- Excessive fatigue and drowsiness
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Feeling agitated
- Having poor balance
5 Tips for taking sleeping pills safely
Sometimes, bad side effects can come from not taking sleeping pills properly. Here are a few guidelines to follow when taking sleep medication to ensure you are doing it safely:
Don’t mix with alcohol
Sleeping pills should not be mixed with alcohol. Unfortunately, many people with addiction problems make it a habit of doing so.
It can be incredibly dangerous. How dangerous depends on the type of sleeping pill and the amount of alcohol consumed. In some cases, it can even lead to death.
Only take before bedtime
Do not take sleeping tablets during the day or too early before bed. You might end up waking up too early in the morning.
Only take your sleeping tablets at bedtime.
Stick to the recommended dose
Listen to your doctor and only take the recommended dose. You might think that increasing your dose will help you sleep better, but it can be bad for you and do more harm than good.
Don’t drive after taking sleep medication
Don’t take your sleep medication before having to drive somewhere as your impaired cognitive function and slow reflexes could cause accidents.
Carefully read the medication packaging
Always read the information included with the medication. You want to be aware of the various side effects to look out for, exact instructions on how to take the medication, and the dosage to take.
Here’s a bonus tip: don’t mix your sleep medications with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. It can increase the absorption of the medication and make you feel over-sedated and drowsy the next day.
Can sleeping pills be harmful?
Sleeping pills can be harmful, which is why many doctors recommend taking them for only a few days or weeks max.
If your doctor does prescribe a sleeping pill to help with your insomnia, ask about the side effects and read the information provided. You can then make an informed decision about whether you want to take the medication and keep an eye out for any bad side effects if you do decide to take it.
At the end of the day, you need to find the right sleep solutions for you. For some, improving their sleep means combining healthy lifestyle practices like guided meditation and exercise and having good sleep hygiene.
For others, it might mean making all the healthy lifestyle changes that promote sleep while still getting a little help from a sleeping pill. You have to find what works for you.