Danger of sleeping pills

Posted by on Sep 11, 2010 | Leave a Comment

One should sleep at least for seven to eight hours daily to maintain a good health. Today many people are facing problem to get a restful sleep that is why they are addicted on sleeping tablets, which are very dangerous for their health. Intake of a pill, for a good night’s rest seems a small price but in the long-term the cost could be far greater. People who take sleeping pills are a third more likely to die prematurely than those who do not.

Sleeping Pills

These pills can be extremely dangerous to people with certain medical conditions, such as psychosis, breathing problems and heart disease, also at the same time even for those with no medical health problems, sleeping pills can be dangerous and highly addictive. It is also very harmful for people with chronic insomnia. Insomnia is a phase whereby people feel that their sleep had been inadequate. It can help reduce insomnia in special situations. These pills are not advisable in case of pregnant women, children and people suffering from liver problem.

The danger of taking sleeping pills is that these pills, in the vast majority, are habit forming. One can become dependent on the tablets within just two weeks of starting to take the pills, which many people are taking unnecessarily. After a certain time of use, we would need to increase the dose to get the same effect; we could continue to increase the dose to unacceptable levels. That is something that we call “tolerance”, and can happen with sleeping pills. Especially the intake of sleeping pill for an adult increases the risk of night time falls and injury, if they happen to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, which is extremely common.

MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders), warns that withdrawal symptoms of sleeping pills can be severe, ranging from trembling and the shakes to hallucinations, paranoia and epileptic fits. They advise people to avoid drinking tea, coffee and alcohol before they go to bed; not eating earlier in the evening; taking sufficient exercise and not reading or watching TV in bed, as this can encourage you to stay awake. MIND encourages the public to switch to natural alternatives to sleeping pills and to make lifestyle changes to fight with sleeping problems and depression.

Researcher Genevieve Belleville of the Laval University in Quebec, Canada said: “These medications aren’t candy and taking them is far from harmless.” Dr Belleville analyzed 12 years of data on more than 12,000 Canadians. When all other factors were equal, death rates were found to be significantly higher among sleeping pill users and those taking tablets to ease anxiety.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking manufacturers of sedative-hypnotic sleeping pills to warn consumers and health professionals about potential risks like sleep-driving, anaphylaxis, cooking and eating food, and making phone calls while asleep. The FDA defines sleep-driving as “driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of the event”. FDA concluded that labeling changes are necessary to inform health care providers and consumers about risks”.

For a person already suffering from other chronic disease like COPD, diabetes, etc Sleeping pills become more complicated. The following are the effects of sleeping pills overdose.

  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Loss of memory
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Slow pulse rate
  • Pneumonia
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of judgment
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping Pills Side Effects

The side effects of sleeping pills depend on the type and dosage.They are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Burning sensation in joints
  • Vertigo
  • Heartburn
  • Confusion Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Weakness

Types of sleeping pills

There are mainly two groups of sleeping pills:

  1. Benzodiazepams (such as Halcion, Normison, Loramet, Dormicum, Dormonoct and Hypnor)
  2. The new generation of non-benzo diazepams (such as Stilnox and Imovane).


Help with anxiety and insomnia but they’re also used as a sleeping pill before anaesthetic, as a light anaesthetic, in the treatment of alcohol abuse and as a muscle relaxant. Some benzodiazepams induce sleep almost immediately but their effect lasts just a few hours. Others work for more than 12 hours. The faster they take effect the more addictive they are.

Dormicum, Dormonoct and Halcion

Work so fast you could fall asleep before you have time to get into bed. Within a few weeks of using these fast-acting drugs – or any fast-acting sleeping pill – you could become addicted and experience severe withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them.

Rohypnol and Dormicum

Cause such severe memory loss they’re abused as date rape drugs. If you’ve been using sleeping tablets for weeks you shouldn’t go cold turkey if you want to stop. Wean yourself off the tablets gradually with your doctor’s help.


Tablets like Stilnox which are not benzodiazepams, are used just to help you fall asleep. You’re less likely to become dependent on this type.

Guidelines for using sleep medications

  • If you decide to try sleep medications, the following guidelines and precautions are suggested.
  • Only take a sleeping pill when you will have enough time to get a full night of sleep (7 to 8 hours). Otherwise you may feel drowsy the next day.
  • Tell your doctor about other medications you are taking. This includes non-prescription medications such as pain relievers and allergy medicines, and herbal supplements. Combining medications can be very dangerous.
  • Make sure that your doctor is aware of other medical conditions that you have. Some drugs can have serious side effects for people with other medical problems. Examples of these problems include high blood pressure, liver problems, glaucoma, and depression and breathing problems.
  • Follow directions closely, starting with a very small dose and increasing gradually, according to the doctor’s schedule. Find out whether you should take your medication with or without food. For some medications, certain foods must be avoided. Most sleeping pills should be taken on an empty stomach
  • Never drink alcohol near the time when you take a sleeping pill. Never drink alcohol in an attempt to fall asleep faster. Not only will alcohol disrupt your sleep even more, it can dangerously interact with the sleeping pill.
  • Carefully read the package insert that comes with your medication. Pay careful attention to the potential side effects that it describes.
  • If appropriate, use the medications intermittently, rather than nightly, in order to decrease the negative effects and to increase the effectiveness when you do use them. Be sure to check with your doctor as some medications cause withdrawal side effects when stopped abruptly.
  • Never drive a car or operate machinery after taking a sleeping pill. Especially when you first start taking a new sleep aid, you may not know how it will affect you, so proceed with caution the next day.
  • Ask your doctor for specific instructions for decreasing and/or terminating use. In some cases, stopping medication abruptly can cause uncomfortable side effects and even rebound insomnia.

Herbal remedy:


There are several herbs thought to help sleep. Examples include chamomile, valerian root, kava, lemon balm, passionflower, lavender, and St. John’s Wort. Many people drink chamomile tea for its gentle sedative properties. Although it is generally safe, it may cause allergic reactions in people who have plant or pollen allergies. There is some data showing valerian to be useful for insomnia, but the overall evidence is still inconclusive as to its effectiveness. At high doses, valerian can cause vivid dreams, blurred vision, changes in heart rhythm, and excitability.


There are other options for treating sleeplessness, amongst these are CBT. (cognitive behaviour therapy). This involves teaching sleeping techniques to the sufferer and once successful the benefits are generally long lasting. Some insomniacs resort to hypnosis to cure their condition, and this can be an effective remedy in the short term. However its effects tend to wear off over time.
Sometimes it makes sense to take a sleeping pill to induce a much needed good night’s sleep. It is important that we are aware of the dangers of this approach however.

Video of SIRA: Dangers of Sleeping Pills from youtube:

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