I did a lot of research on why to avoid sleeping pills. Many people take them to combat insomnia. In this article I'll outline the risks and alternatives.
Various sleeping pills and the associated risks
As our lives become more hectic sleeping pills become more and more common. Not only against real sleep disorders, but also against stress. There are risks involved by taking these medications such as addiction and harmful side effects. I divided the sleeping pills into different categories to point out some of the drawbacks or side effects.
Antihistamines: Always consume with caution
They are actually medicines for allergies. There are four of them that are being used as a substitute for sleeping pills: Diphenhydramine, Doxylamine, Meclizine and Promethazine. They make you tired but suppress the important REM sleep (rapid eye movement). That is why you often do not feel relaxed the next morning but rather weak and inattentive. The most common side effects of antihistamines are dry mouth, intestinal discomfort and headache. They should not be taken longer than a week at a time, as the brain gets used to antihistamines and make you no longer tired. Increasing the dose will result in more side effects.
Benzodiazepines: side effects and risk of addiction
Benzodiazepines have long been the sleeping pills of choice. They include all names that end with -am such as Nitrazepam, Temazepam, Triazolam and Flurazepam. They are all addicting.
Therefore, Benzodiazepines are considered to have the world's highest rate of consumption. If you stop taking them there severe withdrawal symptoms. The different benzodiazepines are effective at different speeds and for different length of time. It triggers a signal substance that can be found in our brain. This substance has a calming effect and triggers sleep. Side effects include: impaired memory or it can trigger panic attacks. All benzos have two things in common: They disrupt the ability to react. Anyone who has taken it should not drive the following day. A much more dangerous side effect is the dampening of the respiratory center in the brain. Combining this with alcohol it can make a person fall asleep then breathing stops. Furthermore, benzos suppress deep sleep and its recovery, postpone REM sleep and trigger anxiety.
Z sleeping pills: just about as dangerous as benzos
This includes ingredients that start with a Z: Zopiclone, zaleplon and zolpidem. They have largely replaced the benzos and become the most prescribed sleeping pills in the world. They have side effects similar to benzos: Impair ability to react, headaches and visual disturbances. They are also addictive and cause severe withdrawal symptoms. The only advantage over benzos: You can't kill yourself as easily.
Barbiturates: can lead to death
Why? They suppress REM sleep and stay in the blood for a long time, so that you are still tired the next day. An overdose, especially with alcohol, can be fatal. They should be prescribed only in exceptional cases.
Sleeping Pills and Alcohol - How Dangerous?
The combination of sleeping pills and alcohol can often have fatal results. Combining benzos and alcohol for example could be fatal because breathing stops. Alcohol is able to dampen the central nervous system and intensifies the effect of drugs. Our body is busy breaking down the alcohol and inhibits the breakdown of drugs. This increases the effect and duration. Side effects are poor concentration and slower reactions.
Sleeping Pills and the Risk of Addiction
Many sleeping pills can be addictive and are therefore quite dangerous. In Canada, millions of people are affected by this addiction, which mainly affects older people over the age of 65. If you take the pills over an extended period of time, you will become dependent and it will lose its effectiveness. It actually triggers exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. It makes us restless, anxious and mentally unstable. Some people become emotionally dull and it becomes hard to experience joy. Memory and concentration disorders are also possible. Older people in particular are more prone to fall if they use sleeping pills.
Doctors advise us to not use sleeping pills for more than three weeks. You should seek out the advise of a professional, if you want to extend it to more than three weeks.
Ultimately, sleeping pills should not be seen as a cure for sleeping problems, but only for the short term as they do not fight the cause.
Sleeping Pills - overdose and suicide
Sleeping pills are often used in combination with alcohol to commit suicide. If you suspect poisoning from sleeping pills call the emergency doctor and keep some of pills. Indicators are:
- Breathing disorders
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Coma like deep sleep
- Uncoordinated speaking
Natural alternatives to sleeping pills
A lack of sleep results in being irritable at home or you fall asleep watching TV in the evening. It becomes a vicious cycle and it is easy to resort to sleeping pills for relieve.
There are natural ways to find back into a healthy sleep pattern. For example: going to bed at a certain time and calming herbal ingredients. Also eliminate stress in the bedroom, no cell phone or laptop/tablet. Turn off all screens at least one hour before going to bed. Read a book and drink something warm such as tea. The room temperature in the bedroom should never be too warm. It has been said that 16 degrees are ideal.
Never eat dinner just before you go to bed or eat too much. A good time to eat is 3 hours before bedtime. Another good advise is no caffeine in the evening such as coffee, coke or black tea.
Herbal sleeping pills
Herbal teas can relax you and help you fall asleep. It usually has a calming effect on your body. Teas that contain hops, valerian, lemon balm and lavender are best. Many people also use warm milk with honey which can be mixed with cinnamon to soothe and relax.
Another natural alternative is Melatonin or known as the "sleep hormone". The advantages are pretty clear: Melatonin can be taken regularly for a long time without becoming used to it. It is readily available in any drugstore and also combats jet lag in case you are travelling. A really good article was published by Casper called "The Dark Side and Downsides of Melatonin" by Piyali Syam. Take a look the link is below.