Sleeping pills can cause long term side effects

Posted at 5:28 AM, May 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-28 06:28:09-04

According to the American Sleep Association, insomnia effects around 30% of U.S. adults.
For some, that means turning to sleeping pills to help them fall asleep,but are they damaging your health?

Sleeping pills are intended for short term use, but many people use them everyday for months. This can cause long-term side effects. 

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep, but more than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and shift-work sleep disorder. 

A sleeping pill may be effective at ending your sleep problems short-term. But it’s important to make sure you understand everything you need to know about sleeping pills. 

"People don’t realize that a sleeping pill should be used as  prescribed. You shouldn’t take it excessively and that you should take them as directed, and shouldn’t take it for a very long time because there may be several consequences that are associated with those sleeping pills" said Corpus Christi Medical CenterClinical Pharmacy Manager Dr. George Udenai.  

The problem with relying on drugs begins with dangerous side effects and ends with drugs not fixing the actual cause of the sleep issue. 

"These side effects may include burning or tingling sensations of the hands, feet, the leg, constipation, diarrhea, but for the most part a lot of the side effects that we will see with sleeping pills are central nervous system in nature," said Dr. Udenai. 

When you take sleeping pills over a long period of time, your body grows accustomed to the drug, and you need higher and higher doses to get the same sleep-inducing effect. 

"Very soon your body becomes accustomed to it and then the dose needs to be increased, and then sometimes you find that you have a difficulty in going to bed without taking those pills that may cause anxiety. So, there is a sudden form of both physical and emotional dependence associated with this medication," said Dr.Udenai. 

Corpus Christi Medical Center Clinical Pharmacy Manager Dr. George Udenai, also says do not mix sleeping pills with other drugs, particularly alcohol and grapefruit juices that may result in a situation; the concentration of the drugs in your system may increase and that would lead to very serious side effects as well. 

If you’re taking sleeping pills, it’s important to only use them with your doctor’s OK and according to his or her instructions. If you take them too often, they can actually make your sleep problems worse. 

What are sleeping pills? 
Most sleeping pills are classified as "sedative hypnotics." That’s a specific class of drugs used to induce and/or maintain sleep. Sedative hypnotics include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and various hypnotics. 

What Are the Side Effects of Sleeping Pills?
Sleeping pills have side effects like most medications. You won’t know, though, whether you will experience side effects with a particular sleeping pill until you try it.
Your doctor may be able to alert you to the possibility of side effects if you have asthma or other health conditions. Sleeping pills can interfere with normal breathing and can be dangerous in people who have certain chronic lung problems such as asthma,emphysema, or forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD). 

Common side effects of prescription sleeping pills such as Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, Rozerem, and Halcion may include:

  • Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea 
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Dizziness 
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Gas
  • Headache 
  • Heartburn 
  • Impairment the next day
  • Mental slowing or problems with attention or memory
  • Stomach pain  or tenderness
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Unusual dreams 
  • Weakness 

It’s important to be aware of possible sleeping pill side effects so you can stop the drug and call your doctor immediately to avoid a more serious health problem. 

Are There More Complex Sleeping Pill Side Effects?
Some sleeping pills have potentially harmful side effects, including parasomnias. Parasomnias are movements, behaviors and actions over which you have no control, like sleepwalking. During a parasomnia, you are asleep and unaware of what is happening. 

Parasomnias with sleeping pills are complex sleep behaviors and may include sleep eating, making phone calls, or having sex while in a sleep state. Sleep driving, which is driving while not fully awake, is another serious sleeping pill side effect. Though rare, parasomnias are difficult to detect once the medication takes effect. 

Product labels for sedative-hypnotic medicines include language about the potential risks of taking a sleeping pill. Because complex sleep behaviors are more likely to occur if you increase the dosage of a sleeping pill, take only what your doctor prescribes — no more. 

Can I Be Allergic to Sleeping Pills?
Yes — people can have an allergic reaction to any medicine, which could be related to either the active ingredient of the medicine itself or to any of its inactive ingredients (such as dyes, binders or coatings). People who have an allergic reaction to a specific sleeping pill should avoid it. It’s important to talk to your doctor at the first sign of these serious side effects, including:

  • Blurred vision  or any other problems with your sight
  • Chest pain 
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Feeling that the throat is closing
  • Hives 
  • Hoarseness
  • Itching 
  • Nausea 
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Rash 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the eyes , or throat
  • Vomiting 
  • In addition, a serious — even deadly — side effect of any medicine someone is allergic to is anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is an acute allergic reaction. Another possible effect is angioedema, which is severe facial swelling. Again, discuss these possibilities with your doctor if you are at risk of allergic reactions. 

When Do I Take a Sleeping Pill?
It’s usually recommended that you take the sleeping pill right before your desired bedtime . Read your doctor’s instructions on the sleeping pill prescription label. The instructions have specific information regarding your medication. In addition, always allow ample time to sleep before you take a sleeping pill. 

Is It Dangerous to Combine Sleeping Pills and Alcohol?
Yes. Mixing alcohol and sleeping pills can have additive sedating effects from both drugs, and the combination can cause someone to stop breathing, which could cause death. Sleeping pill labels warn against using alcohol while taking the drug.
Also, you should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking some sleeping pills. Grapefruit increases the amount of the drug absorbed into your bloodstream and how long it stays in the body. That can cause over-sedation. 

Can I Become Dependent on Sleeping Pills?
For short-term insomnia,your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills for several weeks. Yet after regular use for a longer period, your sleeping pill may stop working as you build a tolerance to the medication. You may also become psychologically dependent on the medicine. Then the idea of going to sleep without it will make you anxious.
Without the sleeping pill, you might find it difficult to sleep. If that happens, it could be a sign of a physical or emotional dependence or both. Some studies show that long-term use of sleeping pills actually interferes with sleep. The best way to avoid developing a physical or emotional dependence on sleeping pills is to follow your doctor’s instructions and stop taking the drug when recommended. 

Here are four steps that the National Sleep Foundation recommends as the basis of good sleep hygiene:

  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Your body will adjust to the regular cycle. 
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and relaxing. This helps make a smooth transition from wakefulness to Lullaby Land. 
  • Ditch the devices. No TVs, computers, tablets or smartphones in the bedroom. These things have a stimulative effect and make it harder to fall asleep. 
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime. Also, stay away from stimulants such as coffee, nicotine and alcohol as bedtime approaches.

A glass of wine might help you nod off, but you’ll regret it later when your body starts metabolizing the alcohol, which could wake you up.