Sleeping pills: what are the risks and how to avoid them 

On the surface, sleeping pills can seem like a simple cure for insomnia. When used properly. sleeping pills are normally safe and well-tolerated, but they also come with risks and side effects. Here are some of the problems to look out for: 

Sleeping pill dependence 

When taking prescription sleeping pills over longer periods of time, your body becomes dependent on them. This means that you will need a higher dose to get the same effects. 

Taking higher doses has an increased risk of side effects like depressed breathing, which can cause death. Because of this, it’s important to only use sleeping pills as a short-term solution. 

Additionally, when using sleeping pills for a long time, it can be hard to stop and it can cause “rebound insomnia”. In this case, make sure you speak to your doctor. 

Long-term sleeping pill health risks 

In the long-term, sleeping pills can increase the risks of some health conditions and, in some cases, can be deadly. One study found that a type of sleep medication called sedative-hypnotics could be causing up to half a million “excess deaths” in the United States. 

The researchers found that people with prescription pills like zolpidem and temazepam were over four times as likely to die from associated accidents and health conditions. 

Sleeping pills and drowsiness

Another risk of taking sleeping pills is that they can cause drowsiness, and this can sometimes continue the next day. This can interfere with daily activities like driving. 

Some sleep aids can also be dangerous if mixed with alcohol or pain medications, so it’s important to check with a doctor or pharmacist first. 

Is it safe to take sleeping pills? 

Sleeping pills shouldn’t be the first-choice solution for insomnia. The first step is to speak to a doctor to identify a cause – it could be a medical problem, psychological, or behavioral. 

There are ways to improve sleep with lifestyle changes like cutting out caffeine and alcohol in the evening, having a sleep routine, relaxation techniques like meditation, and avoiding screens before bed, as the blue lights can disturb your sleep. 

If you’re taking prescription sleeping pills, make sure you speak to a doctor and get a medical exam, and always read the medication guide carefully. 

You can also reduce the risks by only taking sleeping pills before going to bed, avoiding alcohol and other drugs, keeping an eye on the side effects, and only taking the pills as instructed. 

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