Given what we know about the negative impact on your health if you aren’t sleeping well, sleeping tablets may help. However, there can be a real stigma attached to the notion of sleeping tablets in Europe. A possible reason for this stigma is that when we read about sleeping pills, it is often attached to a negative story of misuse. Nevertheless, if used correctly there could be significant benefits to the individual’s health and well-being.
What do sleeping tablets do?
Sleeping tablets are designed to induce drowsiness. They are usually short-acting and are not necessarily effective in maintaining sleep (keeping you asleep).
Some sleeping tablets are made specifically to aid sleep, while others are used because their side effect includes sedation.
You must only ever use sleeping tablets when prescribed by a qualified doctor.
Types of sleeping pills
Sleeping pills may be prescribed by a doctor to help in the temporary treatment of mild sleeping disorders like infrequent insomnia.
Sleeping pills are NOT recommended to treat chronic sleep problems as they can have severe side effects and can become addictive.
The following are just a few examples of the types of sleeping pills that are often used to manage insomnia.
Side effects of sleeping tablets
This list is not exhaustive and not all types of sleeping tablets result in all of the following. Side effects are dependent on the type of tablet you have, how often you take it, and your own personal health. They may include:
If you suffer from any of the above, consult your doctor.
How sleeping pills are misused
When they are used as a long-term solution
As you likely already know, you should not take sleeping pills for more than a few weeks as they are what we call “habit-forming”. Those who take sleeping pills beyond when they need to can quickly develop a reliance on them, resulting in severe withdrawal when use is stopped.
Once a habit is formed, it is even harder to break. Stopping chronic use of sleeping tablets can result in anxiety, shaking and an increased risk of injury and accidents. Ironically, it can also worsen insomnia.
The body will develop a tolerance to sleeping tablets after three to 14 days. This means that within two weeks you will require a higher dosage to get the same effect as earlier. Other potential effects include developing a physical dependence on the pills which can lead to difficulty getting to sleep and anxiety when stopping use of the pills.
When they are mixed with other medication or alcohol
We all know this: mixing sleeping tablets with alcohol can be dangerous.
Both are sedatives, and a potent combination may cause someone to stop breathing and suffer cardiac arrest. It can also result in sleepwalking which can end in injury and accidents.
Finding solutions to a sleeping issue
While sleeping tablets can help with mild or short-term insomnia, if your sleeping problems persist for longer than a week or two, sleeping tablets will not help.
They should not be used to treat chronic sleep issues – there are other things you should do if you are persistently suffering from sleep problems and we explore them below.