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Sunday, 21 September 2014 11:30

Sleeping Pills Good or Bad?

Approximately 10 million scripts are written annually in Australia. Apart from a fall in prescribing in the early 1990s, prescribing rates have remained fairly constant, with a slight increase in the last few years.

It is estimated that one in 50 Australians are currently taking a benzodiazepine and have been taking the drug for longer than 6 months.

Women are prescribed benzodiazepines at twice the rate as for men, and older people (over 65) receive most of the benzodiazepine scripts for sleeping problems.

The most common benzodiazepines prescribed in Australia are Temazepam, Diazepam, Alprazolam and Oxazepam.

A sleeping pill may be effective at ending your sleep problems short-term. But it's important to make sure you understand everything you need to know about sleeping pills. That includes knowing about sleeping pill side effects. When you do, you can avoid misusing these sedatives.

Causes of Fatigue and Sleepiness and How to Fight Them

What Are Sleeping Pills?

Most sleeping pills are "sedative hypnotics." That's a specific class of drugs used to induce and/or maintain sleep. Sedative hypnotics include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and various hypnotics.

Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Librium are anti-anxiety medications. They also increase drowsiness and help people sleep. While these drugs may be useful short-term, all benzodiazepines are potentially addictive.

How do benzodiazepines work?

When taken orally, benzodiazepines are absorbed in the stomach and small intestine and metabolized by the liver. Benzodiazepines are highly fat soluble and accumulate in fatty tissue.

Excretion is through sweating, saliva, urine, faeces and breast milk.

The benzodiazepines operate widely in the brain, affecting emotional reactions, memory, thinking, control of consciousness, muscle tone and coordination. The benzodiazepines enhance the action of the neurotransmitter, GABA(Gamma Amino Butyric Acid). Neurotransmitters are chemicals which enable the brain cells to transmit impulses from one to another. They are released from brain cells by electrical signals. Once released, the neurotransmitters signal inhibition or excitation of neighboring brain cells.

GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter. The function of GABA is to slow or calm things down. Benzodiazepines increase the efficiency of GABA, thus causing greater inhibition or calming.

Barbiturates, another drug in this sedative-hypnotic class, depress the central nervous system and can cause sedation. Short- or long-acting barbiturates are prescribed as sedatives or sleeping pills. But more commonly these hypnotic drugs are limited to use as anesthesia.
Halcion is an older sedative-hypnotic medicine that has largely been replaced by newer medicines.

What Are the Side Effects of Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills have side effects like most medications. You won't know, though, whether you will experience side effects with a particular sleeping pill until you try it.

Your doctor may be able to alert you to the possibility of side effects if you have asthma or other health conditions. Sleeping pills make you breathe more slowly and less deeply. That can be dangerous for people with uncontrolled lung problems such as asthma or COPD.

Common side effects of prescription sleeping pills such as Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, Rozerem, and Halcion may include:

  • Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Impairment the next day
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Unusual dreams
  • Weakness

It's important to be aware of possible sleeping pill side effects so you can stop the drug and call your doctor immediately to avoid a more serious health problem.


Read 3473 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 March 2016 10:21