Side Effects of Taking Sleeping Pills

There are two types of sleep: REM, when people dream, and non-REM, which has light, medium and deep portions. Sleeping pills mainly increase the amount of medium-depth non-REM sleep, Dr. Buysse said.

People will often cut back on their sleep for work, for family demands, or even to watch a good show on television. However, before you fall short of any sleep, you need to understand a few facts;

       1. Cutting back on sleep on regular basis predisposes someone to health problems such as obesity, heart attack, and poor mental health (CDC, 2019).

       2. Even one night of short sleep can affect you the next day and one is tempted to become less productive and every age has its own recommended hours of sleep.

      3. Quality of sleep is important than just lying on the bed but it decreases with age.

      4. "The body is not designed to tolerate long term months and months of not sleeping adequately (Mayo Clinic, 2018)."

What Are Sleeping Tablets?

Sleeping tablets work on pathways in the brain which are important in regulating whether someone is awake or asleep. Most sleeping tablets make the ‘sleep pathways’ more active.  One of the newer medications works by making the ‘wake pathways’ less active.

Sleeping tablets generally start having an effect within 20-30 minutes of being taken, so they should be taken just before lights out. It is important that you get into bed after taking the sleeping tablet, as there is a risk of feeling unsteady once the tablet starts working.

Most sleeping tablets only work for a few hours, so are better at helping people get to sleep than stay asleep. Tablets which are better at helping people stay asleep need to work for longer and therefore may cause a morning ‘hangover’.

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What Causes Sleep Problems?

Sleep can be affected by a large number of medical, physical and psychological problems. Treatment of insomnia will depend on an individual’s specific circumstances.

Most situations of acute (short term) insomnia are due to stressful life events. This can be managed with either supportive care or short-term use of sleeping tablets under the direction of your doctor.

In the case of chronic (longer term) insomnia, people will often experience problems with getting to sleep or staying asleep over months or even years. While stressful events can make such insomnia worse, there are often multiple issues affecting sleep.  These include sleep/wake patterns, behaviours and thought processes which make the insomnia continue. Non-medication approaches are therefore important for people with chronic insomnia (see Insomnia and Good Sleep Habits).


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What Are Some Of The Commonly Used Sleeping Tablets?

  • Benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like medication. These are the most commonly used sleeping tablets in Australia and include temazepam (Temaze, Normison), zopiclone (Imovane) and zolpidem (Stilnox). They work by enhancing the activity of sleep pathways in the brain. They are recommended for short term use (less than 4 weeks).
  • Suvorexant (Belsomra). This works by reducing the activity of the wake pathways in the brain. It is more helpful for people with chronic insomnia who spend time awake during the night after initially falling asleep. It can be used for longer periods than conventional sleeping tablets
  • Melatonin (Circadin). This is a synthetic version of the chemical made by the brain each night. It has been approved for short term use in people aged over 55.
  • Sedating anti-histamines (e.g., Polaramine, Avil, Restavit). These medications are used to treat allergic disease. Although they can cause sleepiness as an unwanted side effect, they are not intended to be used as sleeping tablets.
  • Antidepressants and antipsychotics (e.g., Endep, Avanza, Seroquel). These medications are generally used for people with underlying mental health conditions and are not recommended for use in primary insomnia.

General Effects

“Sleep-driving” And Other Complex Behaviors

There have been reports of people getting out of bed after taking a sedative-hypnotic and driving their cars while not fully awake, often with no memory of the event. If a patient experiences such an episode, it should be reported to his or her doctor immediately, since “sleep-driving” can be dangerous. This behavior is more likely to occur when sedative-hypnotics are taken with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants (see WARNINGS). Other complex behaviors (e.g., preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) have been reported in patients who are not fully awake after taking a sedative hypnotic. As with sleep-driving, patients usually do not remember these events.

In elderly and/or debilitated patients it is recommended that treatment with HALCION Tablets be initiated at 0.125 mg to decrease the possibility of development of oversedation, dizziness, or impaired coordination.

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Some side effects reported in association with the use of HALCION appear to be dose related. These include drowsiness, dizziness, light-headedness, and amnesia.

The relationship between dose and what may be more serious behavioral phenomena is less certain. Specifically, some evidence, based on spontaneous marketing reports, suggests that confusion, bizarre or abnormal behavior, agitation, and hallucinations may also be dose related, but this evidence is inconclusive. In accordance with good medical practice it is recommended that therapy be initiated at the lowest effective dose (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Cases of “traveler's amnesia” have been reported by individuals who have taken HALCION to induce sleep while traveling, such as during an airplane flight. In some of these cases, insufficient time was allowed for the sleep period prior to awakening and before beginning activity. Also, the concomitant use of alcohol may have been a factor in some cases.

Caution should be exercised if HALCION is prescribed to patients with signs or symptoms of depression that could be intensified by hypnotic drugs. Suicidal tendencies may be present in such patients and protective measures may be required. Intentional over-dosage is more common in these patients, and the least amount of drug that is feasible should be available to the patient at any one time.

The usual precautions should be observed in patients with impaired renal or hepatic function, chronic pulmonary insufficiency, and sleep apnea. In patients with compromised respiratory function, respiratory depression and apnea have been reported infrequently.

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Date published: 22/09/2017
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