Skepticism About Sleep Drugs

Last updated: March 26, 2019

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

The use of sleeping pills or any sleep medication has been contentious for decades. A lot of people prefer the convenience of being able to get to sleep with the help of a pill. Just pop a pill and you’ll be sleeping soundly after just a few minutes. With the help of new and safer drugs, doctors are no longer afraid to prescribe sleep medications that can help patients overcome their sleep disorder.

However, there are still those who believe that a patient should exhaust all non-medical means for treating their sleep disorder. These doctors are concerned that sleeping pills are easy to abuse. This doesn’t mean that they won’t prescribe sleep medications though. They just fear that the long-term use of sleep medications may have far-reaching adverse effects in the lives of their patients.

What makes skeptics afraid of sleep aids?

The primary reason for skepticism about the use of sleep drugs is their side effects. Side effects are symptoms caused by the body’s unnatural reaction to a drug. Just to be clear, when a drug causes side effects, it doesn’t mean that they don’t work. It just means that the immune system of the patient has an unnatural reaction to the drug.

Some side effects are mild and have almost no effect on the patient. However, there are side effects that can severely impact the patient’s functionality. Some effects can even be life-threatening.

Take for example drowsiness. This is a side effect that is common in almost all sleep medications. You might feel drowsy and even groggy the morning after taking a sleep medication. You can simply sit it out and wait for the side effect to wear off. But this is not something that we can all do. What if you need to drive to work the following day? Your alertness gets diminished by the drowsiness that you feel. The potential for a motor vehicle accident increases. That drowsy feeling might also impair you if your work entails operating machinery. What is scary about this situation is the fact that this simple side effect can endanger not just yourself but other people around you.

Drug dependence and tolerance

Another concern connected with the use of sleep drugs is the potential for its abuse. When you use a sleeping pill for a long time, you might get dependent on it. Your body will end up craving the drug. This means that your body might long for the effects of the drug even when you no longer need it. I’ve seen people who still take sleeping pills simply because they have gotten used to it. They’ve gotten to a point when taking a sleeping pill has become a part of their ritual.

There is also the potential that your body might build a tolerance to your sleep medication. This means that your body has gotten so used to the effects of a drug that the normal dosage doesn’t work anymore. When this happens, the people have a knee-jerk reaction of increasing the dosage of the drug they are taking. This could become a vicious cycle of your body developing tolerance to the dosage every time you increase it. You might reach a point when you have increased the dosage to such high levels that there is a chance of overdose.

Sleep drugs and other health conditions

There are also those who believe that the prolonged use of sleep drugs might be diminishing the quality of life of the patient. A study conducted by the American Cancer Society in the 1970s found a connection between cancer and sleep aids. They found out that those who have been taking sleep drugs for more than a year have a higher chance of getting cancer.

Another study found that those who take sleeping pills have a higher mortality rate compared to those who don’t use sleep medication. However, just to be clear, there was no direct evidence to tie the use of sleeping pills to an earlier death. The study needs more corroboration and testing to come up with a definitive answer.

In a study conducted in Taiwan, they found out that long-term use of sleeping pills increases the risk of dementia. Adults 50 to 65 years of age are twice more likely to have dementia. These are adults who have been taking sleep drugs for a long time. The risk of dementia increases not just with the age of the patient. Higher doses of sleep drugs also increased the risk of dementia.

There will always be skeptics when it comes to medication. This is not isolated to sleeping pills. Take for example at the number of people who believe that vaccinations are bad for their children. However, there is no reason to doubt the efficacy of a sleeping pill as long as you take it exactly as your doctor prescribed.

A healthy dose of skepticism never hurts. Take your skepticism and turn it into something productive. Use it to ensure that you’re always on fully informed and aware of whatever medication you are taking. This will help make sure that the medication works without any major side effects. Who knows, your skepticism might just help you get rid of your sleep disorder!

Additional Resources: