Do Sleeping Pills Work?

Last updated: March 26, 2019

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Adults are naturally competitive. And in an attempt to thrive and face our daily challenges as adults, we oftentimes forget about our health. We get so caught up with our ambitions that we forget the risks that ignoring our well-being can do to our body. A stressful job and poor health is really not a nice combination.

Out of all the things that we need to be cautious about, perhaps sleep gets the least attention. As a matter of fact, 35% of Americans roughly get 4-5 hours of sleep every night. That is 3 hours less than the recommended 8 hours of snooze. And even when someone actually has the drive and eagerness to get a good night of rest, they just can’t fall asleep!

This is the primary reason people turn to sleep pills. Since sleep plays a vital role in keeping us energized and enthusiastic to function every day, there’s no doubt people turn to other alternatives that provide them proper sleeping patterns.

How do sleeping pills work?

Sleeping pills are very capable of treating sleep problems such as chronic insomnia, sleep-wake disorder, and the like.

Although there are a lot of sleep medications available on the market, they all work the same in the brain. They target hormones that distribute wakefulness. This, in turn, promotes a calmer state, lethargy, and less anxiety. A person that has acquired these rewarding effects will have a higher chance of getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleeping pills are actually classified into two categories: mild drugs that come as sedatives, and stronger, higher dose drugs which are specifically made to be sleep aids for people with much more complicated sleep dilemmas. The latter is also known as prescription sleeping pills.

Mild sleeping drugs

They are not called mild for nothing. These substances are drugs that are not specifically made to directly distribute drowsiness in a person. The sleepiness comes solely as a side effect. Antihistamines are the most popular example of this type of drug.

Antihistamines are agents that are widely used to counter allergies, flu symptoms, and colds. These are very capable in blocking histamines, a powerful compound which is released by mast cells that trigger allergy symptoms. This happens whenever our bodies react to allergens.

These medicines promote drowsiness and lethargy after someone takes a dose. These facts make antihistamines and other allergy-fighting medications a common member of mild sleeping drugs.

Antihistamines come in different forms such as tablets, liquids, nasal sprays, capsules, and eyedrops. Some of the over-the-counter antihistamines include:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Brompheniramine (Dimetane)
  • Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Clemastine (Tavist)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)

People who suffer from temperate to moderate insomnia are often initially advised to take such mild dose sleeping medications. Although most of these drugs are available over-the-counter, some of them might still need a prescription.

Stronger, high-dose prescription drugs

Moderate forms of sleeping disorders can be treated by religiously taking over-the-counter sleep drugs. However, one should not continue doing so if they are diagnosed with chronic sleep illnesses as milder medications are not really of any help to it.

These high-dose drugs directly invade our nervous system. They work by triggering the release of neurotransmitters called GABA. Neurotransmitters allow impulses to be passed from one nerve cell to another.

This process then effectively targets the activity within GABA receptors. When a GABA is released, the components in our brain become chemically balanced, causing a person to have more relaxed nerves and less anxiety. Thus, promoting a sound and undisturbed sleep.

It is very unlikely for someone to become addicted to sleeping drugs but it still happens. So be cautious.

How does it become bad to take sleeping pills?

They are not necessarily bad. After all, medicines are supposed to treat and possibly cure us of any illnesses. With proper medication and dose intake, you should not worry about the process going the wrong way.

However, too much of anything is not good at all. And sleeping drugs are no exception to this discipline.

Sleeping pills are very well tolerated. But they become bad and hazardous when you are not taking the right prescribed medication. As time goes by when you’ve been taking sleeping pills, your body becomes practically resistant to it, and you will be needing a higher dose to get the same effect your previous dosage brings.

What are the dangers of taking sleeping medications?

The process of how sleeping pills work is very easy to understand. You take a pill, get to bed, and expect to fall asleep minutes after.

It is very important to know the needed information about sleeping pills and how they work. Of course, this includes the side effects of these drugs. Some of the common side effects include:

  • Burning of arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Uncontrollable shaking any body part
  • Weakness

Keep your eyes open for any of these side effects. If any of these symptoms are left untreated, these can lead to potentially more adverse effects which none of us want to acquire at all.

You can become tolerant.

You may not notice it but the longer you take a sleeping pill, the more you become accustomed to it. A higher dose will inevitably cause adverse side effects such as difficulty breathing (some even in their sleep), higher blood pressure and, ultimately, death.

Road casualties

Studies have shown that a person who takes a sleeping pill at night may still have the compounds of the medicine inside his/her body the next day. This also happens when a person doesn’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep.

This will result in impairment in activities that require alertness and focus such as driving. If you still feel drowsy the day after you take a dose, it is best not to do such activities.

Abnormal behavior

We’ve all experienced doing unpredictable things while sleeping. But improper intake of sleeping pills can cause sleepwalking and worst, amnesia. While sleepwalking doesn’t seem so alarming, be cautious. You never know what’s bound to happen when you’re walking in your house fully unaware of what you are doing.

Look for the right signs of abnormal behavior and talk to your doctor as soon as possible to discuss it promptly.

To prevent these hazardous events from happening, only commit yourself to taking over-the-counter sleep drugs for a week or two. If your sleeping patterns still do not change for the better, then it’s about time you went to your doctor for a check-up.

Sleeping pills are absolutely effective. But improper use of these medications comes with adverse side effects and significant risks. It is very important to consult a doctor first before resorting to any medication. Your doctor will provide the right prescription for you.

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