Sleeping pills can relieve insomnia symptoms, but do not treat the underlying causes of disrupted sleep. While a common treatment for sleep disorders, sleep medication side effects limit their usefulness for chronic sleep problems. Sleeping pill side effects range from mild discomfort to dependency and sleeping pill overdose.
Prescription Sleeping Pill Side Effects
Prescription sleep medications include non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics, benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics and antidepressants. Non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics include drugs like AmbienÂ® and LunestaÂ®, while HalcionÂ® and Restoril are examples of benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics.
Prescription sleep medications, particularly benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics, can cause dependency if used for long periods. People who develop sleep medication dependency cannot sleep without the medication and may experience withdrawal symptoms when medication is discontinued.
Dependency leads to other sleeping pill side effects. When used regularly, sleep medication may lose its effectiveness. Increasing amounts of medication are needed to sleep, which may increase the risk of sleeping pill overdose.
In addition to the risk of dependency and sleeping pills overdose, sleep medication side effects can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Daytime drowsiness
- Facial swelling
- Serious allergic reactions
- Sleepwalking, sleep eating or other unusual sleep-related behavior.
Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia caused by depression or anxiety. Side effects of antidepressants include blurry vision, dizziness, headaches, sleepiness and weight gain. In some cases, antidepressants worsen depression symptoms and can cause suicidal thoughts or behavior.
OTC Sleep Aids and Diphenhydramine Side Effects
Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids typically contain an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine. Side effects of OTC sleep aids include daytime sleepiness. OTC sleep aids become less effective when used for long periods of time, and like prescription medication, can cause sleeping pill overdoses.
Children under four years of age should not take these drugs because of possible diphenhydramine side effects. Consult with a doctor before using OTC sleep aids with older children.
Diphenhydramine side effects include:
- Chest congestion
- Dry mouth, nose or throat
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Nervousness or excitement
- Painful urination
- Vision problems.
Sleeping Pills Overdose
Prescription sleep medication side effects include the possibility of sleeping pills overdose. Taking even slightly higher doses than prescribed can result in overdose, so never increase or alter sleep medication doses without first consulting with a doctor. Neither prescription sleep aids nor OTC sleep aids should be used with alcohol.
The ingredients in OTC sleep aids are commonly used in decongestants, allergy medication and pain relievers. Mixing OTC sleep aids with other medication can lead to overdose, so read all medication carefully. Always talk to a doctor about all medications and supplements you are taking.
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Mayo Clinic. (2009). OTC sleep aids and supplements: What’s best and safe? Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-aids/SL00016.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Prescription sleeping pills: What’s right for you? Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleeping-pills/SL00010.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2010). Side effects of sleep drugs. Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm107757.htm.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Diphenhydramine. Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682539.html.