There’s a whole range of pills dedicated to curing insomnia and helping you sleep better. They give the impression that all you need to do is take this one pill every night and your sleep problems will be a thing of the past. But is it really that simple?
Medical guidelines only recommend sleeping pills for very short periods of time. They state that sleeping pills should never be taken long term or on repeat prescription. Why? Because sleeping pills have a whole host of undesirable side effects.
Instead of curing insomnia, sleeping pills can make your insomnia even worse. Without careful management, sleeping pills can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, cause addiction, and have a huge impact on your long term health.
This article uncovers facts about the sleeping pill and the side effects you can experience by taking them. Don’t take a sleeping pill before you’ve read this article.
Sleeping Pills make you Feel Sleepy during the day
Sleeping pills work by depressing brain activity, slowing down your brainwaves. This reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the total time asleep.
The problem is that they stay in your body for a long time. How long exactly depends on the sleeping pill, but often long after you’ve woken up in the morning.
This causes what’s known as the hangover effect. It makes you feel:
- Memory problems
- Impaired decision making
- Inability to concentrate
The effect can be even worse than the sleep deprivation from the insomnia you seeked to cure. High doses of long acting sleeping pills have the worst effect.
Sleeping pills Make Sleep Less Effective
Sleeping pills reduce deep sleep and increase the amount of time you spend in light sleep, reducing your sleep quality. Sleep gained from sleeping pills is far less refreshing than natural sleep. Even if you sleep for longer using sleeping pills, the chances are that you wouldn’t have slept as deeply.
Many people believe that taking a sleeping pill will help them function better during the day, but there is certainly no research to support this. Sleeping pills are merely designed to send you to sleep and keep you asleep. How you feel after that sleep is of no concern to them.
Sleeping Pills Cause Physical Addiction
Sleeping pills have strong addictive qualities. If you take them in large enough doses for a long period of time you’re likely to become addicted to them.
Your body becomes so used to the sleeping pills in your body that it starts to rely on them being in your system. If you stop taking them, you could experience a range of withdrawal effects including
- Disturbing dreams
- Loss of appetite
One of the worst withdrawal effects is called rebound insomnia. If you stop taking them, you normal insomnia won’t just come back as before, it comes back even worse. Rebound insomnia can last for a couple of weeks or more.
Much like the drug addict takes drugs just to avoid feeling depressed, the sleeping pill user takes the pills just to avoid the crushing insomnia.
Sleeping Pills Cause Psychological Dependency
Sleeping pills cause you to overestimate how well the sleeping pill is working.
I mentioned above that sleeping pills work by depressing the brain. Well as a result, it affects your thinking and memory, making you forget about the times you were awake in the night. Just like if you wake up in the night after a dream. In the morning you have no memory of either waking up or having the dream (an occurrence that happens almost every night for most people). So while you might think that after taking the sleeping pill you were out like a light, the reality might be far different.
Anyone who stops taking sleeping pills and is unaware of the withdrawal effects will begin thinking that something must be seriously wrong with them. They don’t understand that it’s not them, it’s the drug that’s causing all of this. You’re not doomed to suffer from rebound insomnia unless you take the drug. It’s the withdrawal effects from the drug that’s causing it.
Some people begin to see themselves as somehow broken and begin to rely on sleeping pills just to get by. This causes a condition called drug dependency, and can lead to drug misuse.
Additional Sleeping Pill Side Effects
If that wasn’t enough, sleeping pills put you at risk of receiving a number of additional side effects. These include:
- Blurred vision
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Unusual dreams
- Dry mouth or throat
- Difficulty keeping balance
- Changes in appetite
- Burning or tingling in the extremities
- Urinary problems
They can also:
- Restrict breathing, causing snoring or worsening sleep apnea.
- Cause changes in personality including irritability, over excitement or lack of drive.
- Trigger all sorts of parasomnias including sleepwalking.
They can worsen the effects of other medication you’re taking, and it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to them, landing you in a heap more trouble.
One thing that’s worth mentioning, never mix alcohol with sleeping pills. It increases the effects of the sleeping pill and can also increase the unwanted side effects.
Even Worse Sleeping Pill Side Effects
Recent medical research has shown that these sleeping pill effects are only just the tip of the iceberg.
A huge 2012 study from the British Medical Journal found that:
You’re four times more likely to die if you take sleeping pills twice a month in the next two and a half years
You’re 6 times more likely to die by taking high doses of the popular sleeping pills temazepam and zolpidem. Zopiclone is expected to be just as bad (prescribed 5.3 million times in England alone in 2010)
Your risk of cancer increases by 35% if you take more than 132 sleeping pills a year
It estimates that sleeping pills are responsible for 320,000 to 507,000 deaths in the US alone.
The study also raised concerns about the ethics of testing sleeping pills of human volunteers. It likens such human tests to hooking them on cigarettes or throwing them out of a plane without a parachute.
But wait, there’s more…
A 20 year study by Harvard University and the University of Bordeaux in France found that benzodiazepine sleeping pills increase risk of developing dementia in the next 15 years by a huge 50%.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, new research published in 2014 found that if you take benzodiazepines for three months, you’re 50% more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 5 years later.
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The size of the dose, the frequency taken, and the period of time taken for, all effect the side effects of sleeping pills. Long acting benzodiazepines are believed to be the worst.
If you’re currently taking sleeping pills and want to stop go and see your doctor. They will help you create a withdrawal plan to slowly reduce the dosage over time with the end result of cutting them out completely.
Treatment such as cognitive-behavioral-therapy is an ideal natural alternative to sleeping pills. It has been shown to be equally as effective at getting you to sleep, doesn’t have all the unwanted side effects, and because it tackles the cause of insomnia head on it works long term.