Sleeping Tablets – what are the Long Term side effects?

By February 4, 2019sleep

Lack of sleep is a common problem. According to data  over 1/3 of the population has some sleep disturbances while 10 % of total adults have frank insomnia at some point during their lifetimes. Any drug that is used for the purpose of inducing or maintaining sleep is a sleeping pill. Sleeping pill is one of the most prescribed pills worldwide.

Various types of sleeping pills can be prescribed depending on bodily requirements.  Never-the-less, most types of sleeping pills act by enhancing the amount or effect of GABA, a neurotransmitter that dampens nervous system impulses.

The commonest sleeping pills prescribed  today come from the class of drugs called benzodiazepines and newer non-benzodiazepine sedatives. They include the commonly used brands of diazepam, temazepam,  and oxazepam . Non-benzodiazepine sedatives include zolpidem, zolpliclone, Stilnox, Imovane, etc

Sleeping pills are lucrative options for anyone who is having troublesome and horrifying sleepless nights followed by sleepy dazy days  but they aren’t the best options for the purpose- to say the least. Infact, sleeping pills can have even more adverse effects on long-term use which is usually associated with its dependency.

Sleeping pills are known for their notorious side effects. In most patients, they usually cause mild to moderate sleepiness into the next day. Another major problem with benzodiazepines is dependence with use for more than 15 days. The pill user may have an increase in sleeplessness then. There may also be agitation, inattention, craving for pills, increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

Long term side effects of sleeping tablets

To list all side effects, sleeping pills like diazepam can cause  drowsiness, poor concentration, ataxia (difficulty in walking), difficulty in speaking, driving, vision problems, muscle weakness, dizziness and mental confusion. Benzodiazepines also induce anterograde amnesia where new memories cannot be formed so patient cannot register new events into memory . Sometimes, they even forget new people they meet.  This can lead to confusion. These effects  slow down reaction time and impair driving skills, increasing the risk of motor vehicle crashes in patients who are taking these agents. All these side effects become more problematic over time and in particular with the elderly give rise to confusion , delerium and memory loss.  On withdrawing sleeping pills suddenly, symptoms of anxiety  and increased heart rate and blood pressure level, tremors in hands, excessive sweating, insomnia and pain symptoms can develop.

Considering these severe effects of sleeping pill use over short and long-term use, doctors usually prescribe these drugs for shortest term possible with least doses. Furthermore, various non-pharmacological measures including good sleep hygiene practices are useful for insomnia.

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