When taken by healthy adults, sleeping pills are generally safe in the short term, as long as they are used as directed. However, given the potential for side effects, it is safest, regardless of the type of sleeping pill, to take them under the supervision of a health professional. Evidence on the safety and efficacy of using sleeping pills for more than four weeks is limited, but some studies have found that daily use of sleeping pills may be associated with an increased risk of mortality. If your best attempts at getting a good night's sleep have failed, prescription sleeping pills may be an option.
Because research on the effects of sleeping pills during pregnancy or breastfeeding is limited, pregnant women are generally advised to avoid taking these drugs. However, one such drug, Benadryl (diphenhydramine), is commonly used in over-the-counter sleeping pills. Other experts agree that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, which may include strategies such as establishing a consistent sleep routine, purposefully restricting time spent in bed or practising mindfulness-based meditation, is the best way to cure insomnia. If you feel the need to use a sleep drug for more than a week or if you increase the dosage, it is very likely that something major is affecting your sleep.
Long-term use of drugs in this class as sleep aids is generally not recommended, as they can affect memory and require higher doses over time to achieve the same effect. According to the FDA, sleeping pills can have dangerous effects by lowering blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate if taken with other prescription drugs. It is important to be aware of the possible side effects of sleeping pills so that you can stop the medication and call your doctor immediately to avoid a more serious health problem. Experts advise against taking sleeping pills before driving or other activities that require full attention.
Because complex sleep behaviours are more likely to occur if the dose of a sleeping pill is increased, take only as much as your doctor prescribes, not more. Sleeping pills should be taken just before bedtime, as taking them too soon can interfere with nighttime activities. Many people assume that over-the-counter sleeping pills are the safest because they are available without a prescription. However, virtually all sleeping pills on the market today have potential side effects, such as next-day grogginess, nausea and headaches.
While most will not find themselves addicted to sleeping pills, they may need higher doses to get the same effect. Parasomnias with sleeping pills are complex sleep behaviours and may include sleep eating, making phone calls or having sex while in a sleep state.