As many as 160 million Americans are estimated to suffer from insomnia or other poor sleeping habits. Should you be in the half that has problems getting enough restful sleep you are probably considering taking sleeping pills to get some relief.
A sleeping pill may be effective at ending your sleep problems short-term. That said, however, you should be sure you know as much as possible about the medication you are taking. That means also knowing as much as possible about any potential side effect. When you are aware of the possible downside of taking sleeping pills, you are more able to avoid those problems.
Almost all of the popular sleep medication on the market can correctly be called “sleep hypnotics”. This is a well-defined category of medications that are used to help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Two of the most frequently utilized chemical compositions are Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates. There are also other hypnotic drugs used on a smaller scale. Here is a brief overview of these:
Trade names include Xanax, Ativan, Librium, and Valium. This class of drugs was originally developed as anti-anxiety medications and they are also able to make people drowsy and aid in sleep. While all these drugs will work and work very well for some people, all Benzodiazepine drugs are possibly habit forming.
Most often Barbiturates are used as an anesthesia but some are prescribed as sleeping aids. Barbiturates work by depressing the central nervous system. Trade names include both Seconal and Nembutal.
Other Trade Names
There are newer medications available to help with sleep issues that are claimed to be non-habit forming. These include Ambien, Lunesta, Rozerem, Halcion, and Sonata.
All prescription sleeping medications have side effects, just like most other medications. Your doctor can recommend which sleep medication may work best for your situation and explain its known side effects. However, just how you will react can’t be known until you actually take it.
Commonly observed side effects of the newer medication that are not specifically habit forming are as follows:
· Weird dreams
· Tingling or burning sensation in the extremities
· Difficulty balancing
· Stomach pain
· Overall weakness
· Uncontrollable shaking of an extremity
Beyond these specific observations, some sleep medications have other side effects known as “Parasomnias”. These are defined as actions or behaviors you have no control over. If you are experiencing a parasomnia, you are technically asleep and are not aware of your actions. Parasomnia actions and behaviors include sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep driving, and others.
Another known risk of sleep medication is combining them with alcohol. This is a very dangerous combination because alcohol will increase the sedative effects of your medication to the point where it can be fatal. The warning labels of all prescription, and some OTC, medications carry strong warnings about drinking alcohol while taking the medication.
If you and your doctor decide that sleep medication is right for your insomnia it is critical for you to report your experience with any side affects you may experience. If your reaction to one medication is severe your doctor can prescribe another that may work without as many negative reactions.
Sleep medication should be used as a short term (several weeks or so) answer only. Prolonged use can cause a tolerance for the drug and it will stop working. There is also a risk that you may become psychologically dependent on your sleep medication. When this happens the very idea of attempting to sleep without your medication causes anxiety.