The Pros and Cons of Taking Prescribed Sleeping Pills

several bottles of prescription sleeping pillsYou’ve probably heard it before. Adults need to sleep around seven to eight hours a day in order to benefit from its various biological effects.  Yet if you’re the type of person who constantly struggles to get enough rest at night, your doctor may eventually ask you to use prescription sleep aids.

But have you ever wondered if there is any side effect of using prescription sleeping pills?  It’s a given that these pills can make you rest faster and more soundly. However, there may be some bad effects of these pills on your health which your doctor may not be telling you.

Here are some of the potential side effects of taking prescription sleep medications that you need to be wary of.

  1. Drowsy Driving

Regularly using sleeping pills can make you tired and sleepy when driving. Drowsy driving may not sound alarming at the surface, but did you know that it is the cause of at least 100,000 vehicle accidents annually? The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also estimates that these vehicular accidents hurt around 40,000 individuals a year, and can cause as much as 1,500 deaths.

One particular pill, Ambien (generic name zolpidem) has been linked to drowsy driving. No less than the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned doctors to lower the recommended dosage for women and men because the effects of the drug can be carried over into the daytime, impairing activities that require alertness like driving.

The FDA particularly recommends that women should be more cautious in using the said pill because they are more susceptible to the risk since their bodies are slower in eliminating zolpidem in their systems. The agency recommends that women should take only 5 mg of Ambien every day.

  1. Erratic Nocturnal Activities

The frequent use of sleeping pills can also make you more likely to exhibit strange nocturnal activities like sleep walking, sleep talking, and even sleep eating. Again, the prescription pill Ambien is said to be one pill that can cause these side effects.

In fact, there are anecdotes about how people who regularly took Ambien woke up with food like milk and cereal over them. Apparently, they were able to go downstairs during the night and raid their refrigerators, taking the food with them back into bed.  Others who used Ambien also say they usually found themselves waking up in another part of their house, instead of their bedrooms.

  1. Cancer and Death

If drowsy driving and erratic nocturnal activities are not enough to send chills down your spine, how about cancer and death?

A recent study that was mentioned in a New York Times article reports that people who take prescription drugs on a regular basis are up to five times more likely to die after two and a half years. Moreover, heavy users of sleeping aids are more likely to have cancer.

Aside from Ambien, other prescription drugs that you should be wary of using include Sonata (zaleplon) and Lunesta (eszopiclone).


While there are side effects of regular use of drugs, you can also gain benefits from the use of these pills. Obviously, sleeping medications can make you fall asleep quickly at night. Simply pop the pill before hitting the sack and you’ll find yourself snoozing within minutes.

Prescription sleep medications may be seen as a last option for rest deprived people, but these pills can break patterns of poor rest. It can also assist insomniacs to get some sleep relief.

There are also medications that are designed for particular sleeping disorders. For instance, people who wake up in the middle of the night may be asked by their doctors to use prescription drugs to address the condition.

How to Lessen Risks of Side Effects

Like any other medication, there will always be risks of side effects from the use of drugs. But you can lessen the risks of side effects by remembering some of these tips.

Before you agree to using sleeping pills, you should talk to your doctor about the other medications you are using. These include non-prescription drugs like pain relievers, herbal supplements and anti-allergy medicines. Combining medications can be very risky.

You must keep precautions in mind. If you have closed-angle glaucoma or you have been suffering from severe liver disease or asthma, you should not take doxylamine and diphenhydramine. The same goes if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, digestive system obstruction, sleep apnea, or urinary retention.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you might want to think twice about using sleeping aids. You should also avoid using these medications if you are over the age of 75 years as you could even suffer from stroke.

You must also use the medication one day at a time. Remember that most doctors prescribe pills as a temporary solution, and even as a last resort, to insomnia.  You should not use these pills longer than two weeks.

Ask your doctor about any instructions regarding termination or decreasing the dosage. In some cases, stopping the use of pills abruptly can cause side effects and may cause you to have more restless nights.

Never mix sleeping aid medications and alcohol, as the later can increase the sedative effects of the pill. Finally, be wary of the side effects. While taking sleep aids, never attempt to drive or do activities requiring alertness as you may have to pay the price eventually, so to speak.

In case you prescription sleep medications fail to make you fall asleep fast, or make you rest soundly at night, you might have to consult with a sleep specialist. The professional may advise that you go through behavior therapy to learn ways how to sleep better. The specialist may even teach you how to make your room or house more conducive to sleep.

Indeed, the use of prescription sleep aids has its pros and cons. To avoid being sorry in the end, you might want to try natural sleep aids like Lunar Sleep.