Everything you’ve ever wanted to ask about sleeping pills

It's time to separate fact from fiction

Words by Jadie Troy-Pryde

Sleeping pills have a pretty bad rep at the moment. Just this month we were warned of the dangers surrounding accidental overdoses when combining prescription pain killers and sleeping pills at the same time.

Although they are not a long-term solution, sleeping pills can help to dull the symptoms of a wider problem. Whether you’re not managing to get your recommended eight hours a night thanks to stress, insomnia, or anxiety, the fact is that sleep deprivation is very serious and can impact how you function on a day-to-day basis.

So for some people, sleeping pills are the only option they have if they don’t want to spend the next day walking around like a zombie.

Not quite sure if sleeping pills are right for you? Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to ask about them.

What are sleeping pills?

Sleeping pills, also known as hypnotics, are a medication that works by slowing down the nervous system to get you to sleep. They increase drowsiness and are usually offered as a short-term solution to a wider problem, such as insomnia or depression.

There are prescribed and ‘over-the-counter’ options available, the main difference being that your GP can suggest the sleeping pill most suited to you and your sleep problem. Although they can be just as effective, over-the-counter pills are usually a one-size-fits-all formula.

Do sleeping pills work?

As there are such a range of sleeping pills available, they are used to help in different areas. For example, Temazepam will induce sleep, whereas Doxepin will help you to stay asleep. Depending on what your sleep issue is, your doctor will prescribe something to target your specific problem.

Are sleeping pills safe?

Anyone taking sleeping pills is warned not to combine them with alcohol, and to refrain from continued use if they experience adverse side-effects. It’s important to be clear about the side-effects, which may present themselves at varying degrees of severity. A few of the most common effects are: dizziness, prolonged drowsiness, headaches, bloating, nausea, abdominal pain and constipation.

Can sleeping pills kill you?

As with any medication, it is important to consult a GP if you are experiencing side-effects. It is advised to avoid alcohol and prescription painkillers while using sleeping pills because it can be lethal to mix drugs that depress your nervous system, causing an accidental overdose.

Are sleeping pills addictive?

Anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax and Valium are known as benzodiazepines which are potentially addictive, and over-use could cause problems with memory and attention span. They are usually only recommended as a short-term solution.

Should I take sleeping pills?

If you are concerned and have been suffering from sleep deprivation over a prolonged period, it is important to discuss it with your GP who can offer you advice regarding sleeping pills or other solutions.

Where can I get sleeping pills?

Prescription sleeping pills can be offered following a consultation with your GP or medical professional.

However, you can purchase ‘over-the-counter’ sleeping pills from most pharmacies. These include anti-histamines and herbal pills that encourage sleep naturally.

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