ARE SLEEP MEDICINES SAFE? AREN’T THEY ADDICTIVE?

SLEEPING PILLS
  • What are sleep medicines?

Sleep medicines are certain medicines that are taken in order to induce sleep in our system artificially.

  • Now, why cannot we sleep naturally?

Because, we might have sleep disorders of some type.

  • What are sleep disorders?

Sleep Disorders are a group of conditions that affect the ability to sleep well on a regular basis. Whether they are caused by a health problem or by too much stress, sleep disorders are becoming increasingly common throughout the world.

Different types of sleep disorders are like insomnia which is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep, sleep apnea which creates pauses in breathing during sleep, parasomnias which causes abnormal behaviors like sleepwalking, sleep talking, groaning, nightmares, bedwetting, teeth grinding or jaw clenching during sleep; restless leg syndrome where there is an overwhelming need to move the legs, narcolepsy where ‘sleep attacks’ happen while being completely awake and lastly sleep paralysis.

Now, all prescribed sleeping pills have side effects, which vary depending on the specific drug, the dosage, and how long the drug lasts in your system. Common side effects include prolonged drowsiness the following day, headache, muscle aches, constipation, dry mouth, trouble concentrating, dizziness, unsteadiness, and rebound insomnia.

Other risks of of consuming sleeping pills unrestrainedly are: 

  • Drug tolerance: You may, over a period of time, build up a tolerance to sleep aids, and you will have to take more and more for them to work, which in turn can lead to more side effects.
  • Drug dependence: You may come to rely on sleeping pills to sleep, and will be unable to sleep or have even worse sleep without them. Prescription pills, in particular, can be very addictive, making it difficult to stop taking them.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: If you stop the medication abruptly, you may have withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, and shaking.
  • Drug interactions: Sleeping pills can interact with other medications. This can worsen side effects and sometimes be dangerous, especially with prescribed painkillers and other sedatives.
  • Rebound insomnia: If you need to stop taking sleeping pills, sometimes the insomnia can become even worse than before.
  • Masking an underlying problem: There may be an underlying medical or mental disorder, or even a sleep disorder, causing your insomnia that can’t be treated with sleeping pills.
  • Sedative-hypnotic medications (benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines) can cause severe allergic reaction, facial swelling, memory lapses, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts or actions, and complex sleep-related behaviors like sleep-walking, sleep-driving (driving while not fully awake, with no memory of the event) and sleep-eating (eating in the middle of the night with no recollection, often resulting in weight-gain). If you experience any unusual sleep-related behavior, consult your doctor immediately.

For the safe usage of sleeping medicines, there are certain tips. If you decide to try sleeping pills or sleep aids, keep the following safety guidelines in mind.

  • Never mix sleeping pills with alcohol or other sedative drugs. Alcohol not only disrupts sleep quality, but it increases the sedative effects of sleeping pills. The combination can be quite dangerous—even deadly.
  • Only take a sleeping pill when you will have enough time for at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Otherwise, you may feel very drowsy the next day.
  • Don’t take a second dose in the middle of the night. It can be dangerous to double up on your dosage, and with less time for the medication to clear your system it may be difficult to get up the next morning and shake off grogginess.
  • Start with the lowest recommended dose. See how the medication affects you and the types of side effects you experience.
  • Avoid frequent usage of it. To avoid dependency and minimize adverse effects, try to save sleeping pills for emergencies, rather than nightly use.
  • Never drive a car or operate machinery after taking a sleeping pill as, when you start using a new sleep aid, you may not know how it will affect you.
  • Carefully read the package insert that comes with your medication and pay careful attention to the potential side effects and drug interactions. Many common medications, including antidepressants and antibiotics, can cause dangerous interactions with both prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills. For many sleeping pills, certain foods such as grapefruit and grapefruit juice must also be avoided.

Now, before taking sleeping pills, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about:

  • Other medications and supplements you are taking
  • Other medical conditions you have
  • Specific instructions for increasing, decreasing and/or terminating use
  • For better sleep, opt for healthy habits, not pills
  • Research has shown that changing your lifestyle and sleep habits is the best way to combat insomnia. Even if you decide to use sleeping pills or medications in the short term, experts recommend making changes to your lifestyle and bedtime behavior as a long-term remedy to sleep problems. Behavioral and environmental changes can have more of a positive impact on sleep than medication, without the risk of side effects or dependence.

Relaxation techniques are used as an alternative to sleeping pills. And lastly, sleeping pills/medicines are addictive only if you want them to be and they are completely safe if taken under the guidance of a doctor.

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