side effects of sleeping pills

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what are sleeping pills?

Classified as sedative hypnotics, these are drugs used to induce and maintain sleep. These include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other hypnotics.

Barbiturates depress the nervous system, causing sedation. It can be prescribed as sleeping pill or sedative, but its use is limited to anesthesia as an overdose could prove fatal.

Benzodiazepines, another drug in the sedative-hypnotic class, increases drowsiness, helping people sleep. These may be useful but eventually, users can get addicted to these drugs, which causes problems with attention and memory. Thus, these pills and drugs aren’t recommended as a long-term solution or treatment of sleeping troubles.

side effects of sleeping pills

As sleeping pills interfere with normal breathing, these can be dangerous for people suffering from chronic lung problems such as emphysema, different forms of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma.

A few common side effects of sleeping pills are-

  • Weakness
  • Stomach pain
  • Tenderness
  • Headache
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a body part
  • Unusual dreams
  • Heartburn
  • Impairment the next day
  • Dry throat or mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness during daytime
  • Imbalance
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Problems with memory or attention

There may be some sleeping pills that have pretty harmful side effects, including parasomnias where you are in no control of your behavior, movement and actions. Thus, it is advised that you follow your doctor’s prescription only. Mixing alcohol with sleeping pills is a big no! It can cause sedating effects and can cause a person to stop breathing, leading to death.

can i be allergic to sleeping pills?

Yes, some people experience an allergic reaction to sleeping pills. If you notice any of these signs, then you must immediately talk to your doctor about it:

  • Chest pain
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Hives
  • A feeling of a closing throat
  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of throat, lips, tongue, eyes or face
  • Pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis, a serious side effect
  • Angioedema, severe swelling of the face

how to recognize a sleeping pill addiction?

Those who are addicted to their sleep medication might show these symptoms-

  • Ignoring social or professional or other obligations
  • Seeming detached or confused frequently
  • Needing a larger dose for falling asleep
  • Trying to quit and failing, multiple times

is it difficult to decrease dependence on sleeping pills?

Many people experience rebound insomnia, wherein sleeping issues become worse once you stop taking the drug. Rebound insomnia might also cause disturbing, bizarre dreams that can lead to increased anxiety and panic attacks post waking up. Rebound insomnia is a withdrawal symptom, thus you shouldn’t continue using these pills because this is the most common cause of a relapse for those who are trying to recover.

how to get off sleeping pills?

If you want to quit sleeping pills, you cannot just do that out of the blue as it is essential to have an adjustment period, most of the times. You need to consult your doctor about this first and then follow his instructions.

  • The first step is to actually wish to stop using the pills. If you’re determined to stop, then you won’t have trouble doing it.
  • For those terrible nights when you absolutely need sleeping pills, cut the dose in half and consume the half doses only for next one week. Cut the dose in half again and consume this quarter dose every alternate night for the next week, eventually taking this quarter dose only twice in a week. Stop the consumption altogether.
  • There will be withdrawal symptoms, but you need to be ready and understand that it will go away. You cannot start using the pills every time you have a withdrawal symptom.
  • The most important thing to do is to set up a healthy, sleeping routine, one that works for you. Set up a wake-up time for every day, even on weekends. This will help your body adapt and you’ll be able to sleep better naturally.
  • Before you enter your room to go to bed, leave all your devices and intense thoughts outside. This will help you relax and go to sleep better and sooner.
  • A hot bath before bed helps relax muscles and sleep better naturally. Also, you should exercise regularly and avoid beverages high in sugar or caffeine.

It is not easy to become independent of sleeping pills, but it isn’t impossible either. It takes determination and commitment, and a little bit of effort from your side. Also, if sleep related issues are bothering you, consider getting in touch with a doctor without further delay.

about author

Dr Vebaku Madhu

Dr Vebaku Madhu has done his masters in Physiotherapy. His continuing interest in Sports medicine inspired him to specialize in Sports Physiotherapy. He currently works with PORTEA, Bangalore.
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