Some nights it's just hard to sleep, and no matter what you do, you feel like you can't get any shut-eye.
When you have a few of these nights in a row, it can start to mess with your head.
If sleeping pills seem like the only answer to your problems, it's important to understand that they shouldn't be used long term.
When to Consider Using Sleeping Pills
Not getting enough sleep is bad for your health – it can cause mental issues, fatigue, slower reaction time, heart issues, stress, and more.
When you can't get to sleep for numerous nights in a row, it can quickly start to break you down mentally.
But when should you turn to sleeping pills for help?
When it comes to things that might help you get to sleep at night, what have you tried?
There are tea blends with herbs like chamomile and valerian root which can help you get to sleep at night. You can even find valerian root in capsule form.
Before opting for sleeping pills, talk to your doctor about your sleep issues.
Find out what is causing your insomnia, because dealing with the cause is better than hiding it and masking the issue with some pills.
If pills seem like the only options, you need to know what sleeping pills are, so you can understand how they'll help you (and how they might harm you).
All About Sleeping Pills
Basically, sleeping pills are sedatives.
The majority of them fall under the classification “sedative hypnotics,” which are drugs that are made to help people sleep (they're meant to help you get to sleep and get a full night's sleep).
Of course, like nearly all drugs, some of them treat other issues as well.
One of the drugs under this classification is Benzodiazepine, which includes Librium and Xanax (pills that are also prescribed for people with anxiety).
Then there are medications like Ambien and Lunesta that are mainly prescribed for sleep disorders.
Barbiturates are another common sedative prescribed for difficulties sleeping. These pills work as sedatives, by depressing the nervous system. Barbiturates can be extremely dangerous, as they work like anesthesia – there is a high risk of overdose.
The Effects of Sleeping Pills on the Body
Overdose isn't the only thing you should worry about when it comes to taking sleeping pills. There are many possible side effects – some minor and some extreme.
These side effects may happen immediately, or you might not notice them until you've been on the medication for a while.
Here are five things you want to be aware of when it comes to considering the aide of sleeping pills, especially if you plan to use them long-term.
Complications with Other Illnesses
For some people, sleeping pills should be the very last resort (or they might not be an option at all).
People with breathing issues can have extremely life-threatening reactions to sleeping pills. If you have asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema, talk to your doctor before taking any kind of sleep aids (even over-the-counter ones).
Because many of the medications prescribed as sleep aids relax you, they can affect your breathing. People with illnesses that already affect their breathing are at risk.
Complications with Other Illnesses
While most common side effects for medication are minor, and not usually life-threatening, they can sometimes mimic other illnesses.
They can also cause other problems – like a pill that causes drowsiness could cause you to get into an automobile accident.
When it comes to sleep aids, some of the most common side effects include the following (some of them will be increased with long-term use):
If you have these symptoms (one or more), it's important to stop taking your sleeping pills and contact your doctor. Even if you're taking something that is non-prescription, your doctor can help.
Major Side Effects
Those minor side effects may be painful or annoying, but they aren't likely to harm you permanently (not directly anyway). There are harmful side effects you can experience from sleeping pills, even if you're using them as prescribed.
One of the biggest of the major side effects of sleeping pills is parasomnia.
These are things that happen while you are asleep that cause movements and even actions. You're asleep, so you're completely unaware of what you're doing.
Here is information on some of the parasomnias that could be caused by the use of sleeping pills, especially if you've been using them over a long period of time.
These are just a few parasomnias. You are more likely to experience these if you take higher dosages of sleeping pills. Be sure to follow the prescription as your doctor intended it.
Allergic reactions can happen with any kind of medication. It helps to know the signs of anaphylaxis (which is an acute allergic reaction to something).
Reactions can happen to active or inactive ingredients (many people have dye allergies and even allergies to coating and binders used in medications).
Here are some signs of allergic reaction to watch for (if you experience any of these, stop taking the pill and go to the doctor):
Addiction to Sleeping Pills
Addiction is common when it comes to sleeping pills. This is because people become dependent on them – you may try to go a night or two without them and realize you can't sleep, so you keep taking them even when you've passed the few weeks you needed them.
It's likely that your inability to sleep at this point is psychological and your nerves from not taking them makes you “need” them.
Some people will also build up a tolerance to them, which can make them take more than they need. This can lead to dependence and overdose.
The long-term use of sleeping pills will interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep. That's the exact opposite of what you want them to be doing.
Know When to Take Your Sleeping Pills
Most sleeping pills are taken right before you go to bed – as you start on your prescription you might find that it takes an hour, give or take, for a pill to kick in.
You can adjust when you take them once you know how they work for you. Only take them when you're at home – not prior to driving a vehicle or using any machinery (or cooking).
You do not want to mix sleeping pills with other sedatives.
You also don't want to take them with street drugs or alcohol. Mixing sleeping pills and alcohol could cause you to stop breathing, which could lead to death.
Both alcohol and marijuana are relaxants, which can increase the effects of your sleeping pills side effects.
Other Things to Know About Sleeping Pills
You've probably heard that grapefruit shouldn't be eaten with certain medications – sleeping pills are included on this list.
Eating grapefruits or drinking grapefruit juice can increase how much of the sedative is absorbed into the bloodstream, and it also affects how long it stays in your body.
This means that you could get too much of the sedation effects, which could kill you.
Final Thoughts on the Regular Usage of Sleeping Pills
You should never use sleeping pills long-term.
Instead, use them for a few weeks while you figure out what is really keeping you up at night.