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Article Summary

Understanding the Risks Associated with Sleep Medications

When you have a serious sleep problem, your doctor may prescribe sleep medication as a solution. While such medication can be very helpful in getting over a temporary sleep issue, sleeping pills come with the risk of dependence and even abuse. It is worth noting that sleeping pills vary in safety and effectiveness and are often meant for short-term use. In addition, persistent insomnia may be a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological problem that sleep medications will not address.


Insomnia is a condition that affects millions of people. It is characterized by the inability to fall or stay asleep. The most popular forms of medication for this include sedative hypnotics and over-the-counter medications. Patients can develop dependence on such medications, which could ultimately lead to addiction.


In the past, insomnia was treated using sedative hypnotics, also known as benzodiazepines or tranquilizers. Although they are effective, they come with the risk of physical and psychological addiction. In many cases, users feel sedated when they wake up and may also experience dizziness, lethargy and even depression. While it is common knowledge that these medications could create problems, many people still opt to take the risk in favor of falling asleep. The body becomes dependent on the sedative to relax or fall asleep. For instance, once you take such a medication to fall asleep one night, you will probably find it difficult to fall asleep the following night.


Ambien became popular as an alternative to benzodiazepine because it was less likely to lead to addiction. However, although it had a quick effect, it lost its efficacy after a few nights for most people. The medication is approved for short-term insomnia treatment, but loses its ability with time. The drug was also associated with blacking out, which shed a negative light on it. Psychological dependence was also common because of its ability to alleviate sleeplessness while others sought it for the high it created.


Psychological dependence can be more serious than physical dependence because insomnia's ability to keep you awake leaves you with a lot of time to obsess over your sleeplessness and craving for the drug. As a result, sleeping aid abuse is probable. Continued use of sleeping pills could cause your body to develop tolerance to the medication. As such, you will need to take more pills for the same effect.

Taking more than the prescribed amount of sleeping pills increases the risk of an overdose. In addition, many people suffer a hangover effect from sleep medications and it is important to discontinue its use in such a case. Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with sleeping pill dependency include restlessness, anxiety, sweating and a return of the insomnia. Withdrawal therapy often involves scaling back on the dosage gradually.

Prescription pills for insomnia

When taken as prescribed, sleep medications are very effective in treating insomnia. In addition, there is little risk of dependency and tolerance with new prescription sleep aids in comparison to traditional benzodiazepines. However, if you or your loved one has a history of addiction, alcohol or drug abuse, there is a greater risk of dependence on sleeping aids. As such, it is critical to inform your healthcare professional concerning such problems.

It is also worth noting that alcohol should not be taken together with sleep medications as it increases their sedative effect. If you are taking another form of medication, it is also advisable to report this to your doctor if sleep medication is prescribed. You should discuss all your health conditions with your healthcare professional, especially if you have been experiencing symptoms such as insomnia for more than one month. Although self-medicating using over-the-counter sleep aids many work, they might contain ingredients such as pain relievers or antihistamines that your body does not need, creating the risk of side effects.


Sleep medications continue to be a significant issue in the medical community; experts are seeking new drugs that will treat insomnia without the risk of addiction. In addition, exercise and diets are being encouraged to help insomniacs sleep better. Herbal supplements are also recommended because they are less powerful than benzodiazepines but they also carry the risk of psychological dependence.

A personalized treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes to address your problem for the long term would be most appropriate when dealing with insomnia. In addition, sleep specialists have devised a variety of approaches to treat insomnia including behavioral approaches such as avoiding naps and limiting the amount of time spent in bed.

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