On average, 4.1% of Americans take sleeping pills. Usage is higher at older ages. Only 1.8% of younger people between the ages of 18 and 39 take sleeping pills but by age 80, 7% of the population takes them. In a Consumer Reports study, 69% of Americans reported having difficulty sleeping at least once a week.
About 10% of the population experiences some form of diagnosable sleeping problem.
Sleeping pills can act as tranquilizers that reduce anxiety and apprehensions at bedtime. They can also help your brain shut down enough to allow you to sleep. If you aren’t sleeping, being able to sleep can make a big difference in how you feel the next day. But there is a price to be paid on top of the cost of sleeping pills that may make sleeping aids the worst way to deal with insomnia and other sleeping disorders.
Some medications are known to have a placebo effect. Research shows that 63.56% of the effect people experience from sleeping pills is due to a Placebo Effect. Sleeping pills provide a slight improvement in the amount of time it takes to get to sleep over and above the Placebo Effect. A Placebo Effect is the result of positive expectations about the outcome. There are ways to invoke the benefits of the Placebo Effect without ingesting drugs that have dangerous and sometimes deadly side effects.
When we ask, “How many sleeping pills does it take to die?” it requires a follow-up question? To die right now or die sooner than we would die if we never took any sleeping pills?
Although allergic reactions are rare, they can be fatal. There are other serious and fatal side effects that can occur from repeated use even when you take them as prescribed by your physician.
A few pills a year are enough to increase your risk of developing cancer by 20% and increase your risk of dying by any cause. Higher doses increase the risk of death and cancer even more.
Well, let us find out how bad these pills can be. To help you understand this better, we have researched and gather useful info, which should guide you before you consider using sleeping pills.
Also Read: Can You Overdose On Melatonin
Why People Use Tablets?
Our society is trained to turn to medicine when we have a problem. People who experience sleeping disorders are not an exception. When they go to their doctor, the doctor’s toolkit has advice about sleep hygiene and sleeping pills. The doctor uses what is in their toolkit. If someone who has difficulty falling asleep wants to use alternatives, they need to educate themselves about what is available.
The scientific research that demonstrates the efficacy (effectiveness) of Placebos for inducing improved sleep tells us that methods that influence our mind’s expectations about how well we will sleep influence the way we sleep.
While we would never advise you not to consult your physicians to get the appropriate medication and dosage. But we would also encourage you to explore alternatives. There are individuals who get used to the pills to the extent that they cannot sleep without them (addiction). It’s better to use sleeping pills as a temporary measure when they are required and work hard to improve your sleep hygiene and stress, so you won’t need the pills to sleep well.
Here are the most popular tablets you should be aware of:
They are medicinally used as tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants, and hypnotics. They rank among the most frequently prescribed and used drugs. They help by changing the functioning of GABA receptors located in the brain.
The most popular benzodiazepines are:
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This refers to an antihistamine drug that helps to reduce and manage the effects of histamine, which is a natural chemical in the body. It is one of the commonly used over the counter sleep aids.
Sleep Cycle Modifiers:
These are the newest medications for people with sleep disorders; the major brand being the Ramelteon, which is the sole drug in this category. These medications act directly on the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) of your body.
Sleeping Pills Side Effects
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued multiple warnings about sleeping pills. Most people try to deal with sleep disorders by taking over-the-counter medications. Basically, the solution that provides immediate relief is what the majority of people with problems sleeping reach for, but it is a temporary solution. Long-term, it is a dangerous way to address sleep problems.
These drugs can cause significantly more problems than they can treat. If you are dependent on sleeping pills, especially on a daily basis, then you are risking the following problems:
Disruption of the normal sleep cycles
According to research, some tablets may suppress REM sleep, while others may increase the state. In either case, you are likely to suffer from altered sleeping stages if you rely on sleeping pills.
Induce a deep sleep
If the pills you take lead to a deep slumber, then you may experience problems waking up. You may end being way too difficult to wake up which can be dangerous to you or other members of your family during an emergency like a fire.
Sleeping tablets are both psychologically and physically addictive. Addiction is a common side effect of using sleeping pills.
Most researchers say that an addiction to this treatment can be unusually hard to break since the body is dependent on the drugs to function properly. An attempt to quit the pills normally leads to withdrawal which often includes an inability to sleep.
Decreased respiration and risk of overdosing
These drugs can potentially lead to decreased respiration and risk of overdosing. If you are experiencing breathing problems, then you are more likely to worsen the condition by taking pills, and if you mix treatments you are at risk of overdosing.
Most elderly individuals risk worsening their problems by adding sleep tablets to their medication regimen.
Younger patients don’t escape the risks. Impaired breathing due to sleep prescriptions can lead to birth defects as far as pregnancy is concerned, especially in the first trimester.
Other side effects that can be associated with specific pills, such as Diphenhydramine and Benzodiazepines which can cause:
- Pounding heartbeats
- Difficult, painful or reduced urination
- Tightness in the jaw or neck
- Confusion leading to feelings of passing out
- Drowsiness during the day
- Blurred vision or dry eyes
- Upset stomach and constipation
- Dry throat, nose or mouth
Sleeping Pills Overdose
Overdoses are a common medical problem in the United States. When combined with other drugs or alcohol, they can be deadly.
Theoretically speaking, a sleeping pill overdose can lead to the shutdown of your body’s systems, including the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and the nervous system. This can lead to death if help doesn’t reach you quickly.
The anesthetic and tranquilizing properties of these drugs can lead to a pain-free death, and this is what links most suicide cases with sleeping tablets. However, many suicide attempts end up causing physical harm but not death, leaving someone who was already experiencing difficulties with more problems.
Combining doses of sleeping pills with other drugs or with alcohol can lead to serious side effects up to and including death. It is important that you follow all instructions with the medicine and the advice of your physician.
However, considering alternative methods that do not require drugs is a better long-term solution.
Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
Alcohol and sleeping pills can really send you into a deep slumber. You are likely to feel drowsy and clumsy. This will definitely slow down your reaction time. There are specific tablets that are known to have long-lasting effects on the body.
You might have taken your sleep medication yesterday in the evening, but if you drink alcohol today in the evening, you stand a chance of experiencing poor concentration and coordination. And you will definitely worsen the situation if you take pills immediately after drinking.
According to most studies, mixing alcohol with drugs (especially non-prescription) is illegal and risky to your health. The effects, even when consumed separately, can be very devastating. A mixture of the two can be deadly.
Alcohol and sleeping pills multiply each other’s effect in your body. They can work together to depress your central nervous system. There is a possibility of your breathing and heart rate to radically slow down, and even lead to your death.
Cross-tolerance is another issue. Alcohol and pills all tell the brain to go to sleep, and the cells counteract. If you develop a tolerance for one of the two, then you will develop a tolerance for all of them.
How Many Sleeping Pills Will Kill You
The major signs of overdose may include:
- severe drowsiness
- shortness of breath
- trouble breathing
- irregular heartbeat
- unusual tiredness
If the aforementioned signs manifest, seek medical help immediately. Call 911 if necessary.
Sleeping Pills Facts to Remember
- They handle the problem effectively in the short term
- They can lead to undesirable side effects, including addiction and dependence
- You should only use them for the recommended duration
- A combination of alcohol or other drugs may be harmful
- They can help you to sleep but may harm your long-term sleep health
- Effectiveness may decline if take them regularly
- Never use non-prescriptions from unknown sellers
- Never mix alcohol and sleeping pills
- Make sure your doctor and pharmacist are aware of all the pills you’re taking
- They are not the only option, you can try other remedies
- Never self-medicate yourself
- Talk to your doctor in case of any signs of distress
Also Read: How to Fall Asleep Fast
Researchers estimate that the use of sleeping pills cause 320,000 to 507,000 deaths each year and spend over $41 billion a year in the USA purchasing these potentially deadly drugs.
Even seemingly insignificant use increases the risk of cancer. Taking 1 – 18 sleeping pills a year increase the risk of developing cancer by 20% and the risk of death from all causes over the next 2 ½ years. That’s a significant risk to take with your life and health when there are viable alternatives. At higher doses, the risk of developing cancer or dying from any cause increases substantially, rising to up to six times the risk of those who never take sleeping pills even when the dose is taken as prescribe.
Improving sleep hygiene can improve your ability to sleep without drugs. Other strategies that are effective include mental health therapy, developing stress management skills, a meditation habit, and other relaxing activities. Given the high risks associated with sleeping pills, it makes sense to explore other options.
The significant Nocebo Effect in clinical trials strongly suggests that non-drug, mind-body approaches can be highly effective at improving sleep quality and duration.
Like any other medication, sleeping pills can easily be abused. To ensure that you do not become a victim of your own making, you should always consult your physician in case you experience changes with your sleep-wake cycle.
Most people are dependent on over-the-counter treatments because they are easily available But you should always involve your doctor in chronic health problems.
Sleep health is as important as diet, exercise, and stress management to your overall health.
Tips: For suicide hotlines, Check this post.