Side Effects of Sleeping Pills: Expert Tells You Why You Should Be Careful With Sleep Medication
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Insomnia or sleep disturbance is the most common of all sleep disorders. Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. According to a report by the National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that around 30% of the total general population complains about sleep disruption and over 10% have been associated with symptoms of daytime functional impairment consistently, with the diagnosis of Insomnia. Insomnia is a problem that can affect adults, elderly and children alike.

Prevalence of Insomnia increases with age due to poor sleep habits, pain and medical conditions, medications and stress; it is also strongly related to family history. Women are more likely to suffer from this illness than males as they experience unique hormonal changes like Menstrual Cycles, pregnancy, Perimenopause and Menopause.

Treatment of Insomnia depends on the severity of symptoms and underlying cause. Sleep medications are not the first line of treatment, but various other methods such as Behavioural Therapy or Sleep Hygiene must be tried first. It is very vital to sleep on time and follow a schedule, exercise regularly, avoid caffeine intake, nap during the daytime and avoid stress. Intake of sleeping pills could be risky, especially for people with certain medical conditions, including Liver or Kidney Disease.

Sleeping pills may help you fall asleep easier, or help stay asleep longer, or both. The risks and benefits of various prescriptions for sleeping pills can differ. Side effects of taking sleeping pills: Depending on the type, sleeping pills with prescription might include the following

Side Effects:

• Frustration, fatigue, low energy, difficulty in concentrating, mood disturbances • Severe headache • Gastrointestinal problems, (E.g. Diarrhoea and Nausea) • Persistent drowsiness (due to consuming drugs that may help you stay asleep). • Allergic reaction to certain things • Behavioural changes in sleep (E.g. driving or eating when you’re not fully awake) • Daytime memory and performance problems.

Safety considerations to keep in mind:

• Sleeping pills may not be safe in case you are pregnant or breast-feeding .

• It might increase the risk of falls during the night time and injury in older adults due to dizziness.

• It can cause low Blood Pressure, Kidney Disease, Arrhythmias (erratic heartbeat) or seizures .

• Certain sleeping pills can cause drug abuse or drug addiction, so it is important consult a doctor before taking medications.

Tips to follow before taking sleeping pills: If you really want to get good sleep but have failed, sleeping pills are not the only option. Here is some advice on how to use them safely:

Get a medical evaluation:

Before taking sleeping pills, one must visit the doctor for a thorough examination. Often your doctor may be able to find the cause for your Insomnia.

Do not take a sleeping pill until you're going to bed:

Always wait to take a sleeping pill until you have completed all your activities for the day, just before you plan to go off to sleep.

Take your sleeping pill when you can get a proper amount of sleep:

Take a sleeping pill only when you know you can get a proper amount of sleep that is at least 7 to 8 hours. Importantly, do not take pills if you need a small nap (for example while travelling).

Watch out the side effects:

In case you feel drowsy or sleepy during the day or if you experience any other significant side effects, consult your doctor about changing your medicine or weaning off your pills, immediately.

Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol:

Remember, never mix alcohol and sleeping pills. Alcohol might increase the sedative effects of the pills, making you feel faint or confused. If combined, it can lead to decelerated breathing or unresponsiveness. Also, alcohol can actually cause Insomnia.

Take sleeping pills strictly as prescribed by your doctor:

Some sleeping pills are for short-term use only; don't take a higher or prolong dose than prescribed. If initial dose does not work or show any positive effect on your sleep, do not take more pills without consulting your doctor.

Quit carefully:

Follow the dosage instructions given by your doctor, some medications are stopped gradually. It very vital to be aware that you might have some short-term rebound Insomnia for few days, post you stop taking the sleeping pills.

(With Inputs from Dr Mohammed Shakeel, HOD-Emergency & Trauma, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan)