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Sleeping Pills: Types, Side Effects & Treatment

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Update: May 8, 2023
5 min read

Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
Sleeping Pills Side Effects

Did you know? Humans spend about one-third of their lives in a blissful realm of sleep and dreams. But some people may have a little trouble in this paradise with constant tossing and turning. 

Individuals with sleep disorders like insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep. The easiest way to get any sleep is with the help of a sleep aid. But instant reliefs are not always suitable. So before taking any medications, you must understand everything you need to know about them. And the same goes for sleeping pills. 

This article comprises the definition of sleeping pills and discusses sleeping pills’ side effects along with the effective ways to sleep without one. Read on further to make an informed decision and know what are sleeping pills.

What Are Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills are hypnotic drugs, also called tranquillizers or sedatives. People with sleep disorders like insomnia have often been prescribed these medications, which help them fall asleep. Sleeping pills affect the central nervous system, stimulating a relaxing and calming effect. Common agents in sleeping pills include benzodiazepine, melatonin, and herbal preparations. 

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, lorazepam, and chlordiazepoxide, are prescribed to treat anxiety, sleeping problems, and other disorders. Melatonin is a supplement often prescribed for treating sleep disorders, such as delayed sleep phase, and providing some relief from insomnia and jet lag.

India has a long history of traditional medicine. And medicinal plants possessing sedative and hypnotic properties, such as valerian and lavender— one of the natural antidepressants, were the most frequently studied plant extracts. Their uses were associated with improved quality and duration of sleep and reduced anxiety. So, how effective are sleeping pills exactly? 

How Effective Are Sleeping Pills

Research suggests that sleep aids such as melatonin may help increase total sleep time in individuals suffering from sleeping disorders and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. However, there isn’t any in-depth research regarding sleeping pills promoting a good night’s rest. 
And though sleep aids are prescribed to people with sleeping issues, they are not for long-term use. Because every prescription sleeping pills have risks and side effects. Follow up, what are the side effects of sleeping pills?

9 Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

Although helpful, sleeping pills can produce adverse effects. Ask the healthcare provider about potential side effects. Following are some of the common side effects of sleeping pills:


Although sleeping pills are meant to make you feel drowsy and relaxed, they leave a side effect that can make you feel lethargic and drowsy during the day.

Difficulty Concentrating

Other sleeping pills’ side effects include difficulty concentrating. Due to their sedative effect, the person may feel confused or have slowed thinking, even after waking up.


Even after a long sleep, sleeping pills make a person feel like they didn’t get much sleep. And the drowsiness and lethargy may lead to a headache because of “lack of sleep.”


Some people also experience allergic reactions from sleeping pills that can cause nausea. Sleep aids such as Zopiclone, often prescribed for insomnia cause nausea after the last dose.

Dry Mouth

Antidepressants like Zoloft, Flexaryl, and Elavil may harm the tissues of the oral cavity. In addition, they affect the central nervous system, which may slow down the production of saliva.


Side effects of sleep aids like drowsiness and lethargy, can easily lead to oversleeping.


According to research, drugs used for treating sleeping disorders containing hypnotics are more likely to cause constipation and must be used cautiously.


Like constipation, side effects of over-the-counter sleeping pills containing diphenhydramine hydrochloride can cause adverse effects, including diarrhoea.


Individuals with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression often complain about dreams and nightmares. And according to a study, because of antidepressants, depressed patients often report fewer dreams, and the reported dreams were often in a negative tone.

Sleeping Pills and Older Adults

When an individual gets older, the digestive functions slow down and sleeping pills naturally tend to stay in the system longer. This makes older adults vulnerable to health problems and side effects of sleeping pills.

Therefore, talk to a doctor or specialist before taking any sleep aids since any kind of sleeping pills’ side effects can be potentially dangerous. For instance, confusion and memory problems are also known side effects of sleeping aids, and for older adults, this could result in falls, broken hips, or any major accidents.

Are Sleeping Pills Safe for Children

Sleep aids can be equally dangerous for children since there is a risk of overdose with these drugs. Thus, consult a doctor or specialist; they can change the adult dose to fit a child’s weight. 

And if the situation calls for it, there has been a little research where it is recommended that melatonin sleep aids might be safe for children. However, if a child has sleep problems, the reasons can vary at different ages. So, before resorting to medications, opt for safer, more effective ways to treat sleep issues.

For example, change bedtime habits and behaviours, educate children about sleep hygiene, or lure out their stubborn habits with ‘rewards. Besides these, there are other ways to sleep without sleeping pills.

How to Sleep Better Without Sleeping Pills

Resorting to sleep aids might sound tempting; however, given their side effects, it is better to look for safer and more natural ways to sleep. Following are some tips to make your sleep better without the need to pop a pill.

  • Irregular sleeping patterns could interfere with sleep; therefore, try to create a consistent sleeping pattern.
  • Keep the room as dark as possible; it helps notify the brain that it’s time to relax and rest.
  • Avoid daytime naps as they can adversely affect a healthful sleep cycle.
  • Stay physically active during the day, so you can relax when you hit the hay.
  • Limit screen time, especially before bed.
  • Avoid stimulating sustenance and liquids like caffeine; they can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Keep the room temperature at your comfort level.
  • Sleep in a comfortable position. You may also check out the best sleeping positions. 
  • Keep the environment as quiet as possible.

When to See a Doctor

Considering the sleeping pills’ side effects, it is better to consult with a doctor or specialist before taking any kind of medication. They can prescribe medications better suited for your condition and advice on things regarding the side effects.

Final Words

Sleeping pills might sound like a tempting option when the night is spent tossing and turning. However, consult with your healthcare provider before trying an over-the-counter sleep aid. 

And if the sleep issues are not serious, then a little behavioural change is all you need for improved sleep. Refer to the above-mentioned tips, and share any of your own.


What happens if a person takes sleeping pills every day?

When you regularly take prescription sleeping pills, your body becomes accustomed to the medication, and you need increasing doses to achieve the same sleep-inducing effects. However, consuming a sufficient amount could result in sleep-depression breathing, which can be fatal.

When should you not take sleeping pills?

Experts advise against using any sleep medications if you are 65 years or older. This includes over-the-counter medications and more recent “Z” medications like zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon.

How long do sleeping pills make you sleep?

Take a sleeping pill only if you are certain you can get a full night’s rest of at least 7 to 8 hours. You can take a few short-acting sleeping pills while staying in bed for at least four hours because they are designed for awakening in the middle of the night.


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Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
10 years of experience as a content writer Previously worked as a copywriter for a health journal Ability to write in a variety of formats, including articles, white papers, and clinical trial summaries

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