I am often asked by patients “Dr. I had a very bad night. Please give me some pill to improve my sleep?” In this article, I will discuss the role of sleeping pills – To take or not to take? Sleeping pills are taken to improve sleep for a condition called Insomnia. But they may also lead to sleeping pills side effects! Before deciding to take sleeping pills an insomnia patient needs to detect the cause and treat the cause rather than the symptoms of insomnia.

Types of Sleeping Pills

Different sleeping pills act in different ways and have varying sleeping pills side effects on insomnia patients. Some traditionally prescribed drugs such as benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that leads to sleep, but these drugs can lead to tolerance and dependence. Newer drugs such as melatonin receptor agonist help to induce sleep by increasing the effect of melatonin and orexin receptor antagonist drugs work by blocking the effect of orexin, thus promoting a person to fall asleep. The advantage of using these drugs by insomnia patients  is that they do not lead to an addiction, and are associated with fewer sleeping pills side effects.  
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia instead of Sleeping Pills
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is extremely useful to treat insomnia patients, as it has a longer-lasting effect and is safe from sleeping pills side effects.  Among various other things, it involves enforcing behavioral changes that involve restriction in the time of sleep by spending less time in a bed outside of bedtime, stimulus control by staying away from sleep incompatible devices such as computers and cell phones close to bedtime, and relaxation.

Sleeping Pills Side effects

  • Sleeping pills taken at night, cause residual sleeping pills side effects during the day in insomnia patients like drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory leading to problems at their workplace, home, and in their social relationships.
  • Some kinds of sleeping pills side effects from pills such as benzodiazepines and anticholinergic agents include an increased risk of dementia in insomnia patients who use them for a long duration of time.

When should one take Sleeping Pills?

One should only take sleeping pills after consultation with their doctor. Sleeping pills are usually recommended for acute insomnia patients that may experience a life-changing event, such as a loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, etc that may cause extreme stress to an individual. In such a situation, a doctor may prescribe sleeping pills however, it is not recommended for long-term use, by chronic insomnia patients as there can be various sleeping pills side effects.

In conclusion, whether one should or should not take sleeping pills, depends on the situation. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, many people are stressed, which has increased the number of insomnia patients. Instead of popping pills to fall asleep and increasing the risk of sleeping pills side effects, one should consult their doctor. Since visiting doctors and hospitals should be minimum to prevent exposure to Sars-CoV-2, CBT-I through telephone should be considered. Though the doctor may prescribe sleeping pills for a short duration of time, it is the responsibility of the insomnia patient to not abuse the drug and be safe from sleeping pills side effects.

To seek help or know more about Insomnia and sleeping medications, please call us at 855-220-1777 to make an appointment with a Neurologist, Dr. Dhrupad Joshi.