Sleeping Pills

In this blog we will look at types of sleeping pills and consider their use and risks.

When they can be helpful
Sleeping pills may help when stress, travel or short term disruptions are keeping you awake.

Types of sleeping pills
All sleeping pills work on the brain to promote drowsiness. Sleeping pills may be sedatives or hypnotics. Hypnotic drugs are used to treat insomnia, their main purpose is to help with getting to sleep and staying asleep. Sedatives on the other hand calm the central nervous system and sedation is a side effect.

When it is dark outside the body produces a hormone Melatonin. This regulates the sleep-wake cycle by telling the body it is time to sleep. Although Melatonin is a natural hormone most Melatonin pills are made in a laboratory. Melatonin can be helpful to help manage jet lag and insomnia. Some shiftworkers find taking Melatonin at the end of night shift can help prepare the body for bed.

What are the side effects?
Sleeping pills can cause side effects including headaches, sleepiness stomach problems, drowsiness and memory issues.

Are there risks? 

  • They can increase the risk of falling especially in elderly
  • They can make sleep apnoea worse
  • May be unsafe to take during pregnancy
  • Can be addictive and coming off sleeping pills  should be done in consultation with your doctor.
  • You may develop a short term rebound insomnia after you stop taking sleeping pills

How to use sleeping pills safely

  • Always consult your doctor about taking sleeping pills and coming off sleeping pills
  • Don’t engage in high risk tasks such as driving or operating machinery after taking a sleeping pill
  • Avoid taking alcohol when taking sleeping pills

Learn to use behavioural strategies
Many people don’t need sleeping pills. Behavioral strategies such as methods to relax the body and mind and developing a bedtime routine that signals the brain that it is time to get some sleep are well researched and effective.