Sleeping Pills: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You’ve misted your bedroom with lavender sleep spray, purchased blackout curtains, kicked the caffeine early in the afternoon, and tried every Sleepytime tea you can get your hands on…but try as you might, you still have trouble falling and/or staying asleep at night. We hear you loud and clear, and we understand the appeal of sleeping pills, but before you’re completely sold on them, let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What Are Sleeping Pills?

A pill that makes you go to sleep and stay asleep after battling insomnia sounds almost too good to be true, right? Sleeping pills are classified as sedative-hypnotics, which include benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications), barbiturates (sedatives), and various hypnotics.

Most prescription sleeping pills are designed to treat the two types of insomnia: acute sleep onset insomnia, which is when you have trouble falling asleep, and sleep-maintenance insomnia, which is when you can fall asleep but struggle to stay asleep. Certain medicines target specific sleep needs.

What Are the Side-Effects of Sleeping Pills?

As with any medication, sleeping pills have a number of side effects, including:

  • Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Impairment the next day
  • Mental slowing or problems with attention or memory
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Unusual dreams
  • Weakness

Some sleeping pills can cause parasomnia, which is defined as abnormal movements, talking, emotions, and actions like sleepwalking that happen while you’re sleeping.

Pros and Cons of Taking Sleeping Pills

But sleeping pills aren’t all bad news; they can be helpful when prescribed for short-term use. Sleep is super-important to our overall health and how we function during the day. So for people who experience insomnia, sleeping pills may be a successful solution.

However, as mentioned, the side effects of taking sleeping pills can be scary and dangerous. Sometimes the medication “stops” working, but in reality, your body has built up a tolerance. When this happens, it’s not unusual to have to up the dosage, which can cause a multitude of problems, including drug dependence, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms.

Statistics to Consider

  • A 2015 study found that people who are taking prescription sleeping pills are more likely to be in a car crash – and are just as likely to be in a crash as those who are legally drunk.
  • Women are more likely to use sleeping pills.
  • The percentage of adults using prescription sleeping pills increases with age and education.

If you think you need sleeping pills to help with your insomnia, speak with your doctor. They can help you weigh the pros and cons of taking a sleep aid and recommend the correct dosage for your needs.

Have you ever been prescribed sleeping pills? Share your experience with us in the comments below!


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