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Sleeping Pills (Sedatives)

Introduction

Sleeping pills are a class of sedatives which act on the central nervous system and help a person fall asleep quickly.

There are a few types of medicines that can produce sedative effects. Examples are antidepressants, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines are the most commonly used anxiolytics and hypnotics. Some Benzodiazepines are used to relieve anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, panic disorders and certain seizures disorders.

Most anxiolytics (eg. alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam) will induce sleep when given at night and most hypnotics (eg. midazolam, zolpidem) will sedate when given during the day.

Treatment

Sleeping pills should only be used as a short-term treatment. This is because the tablets lose their effect after a while because the body gets used to the medicine.

Complications

Common side effects from taking sleeping pills include drowsiness, dizziness, lack of co-ordination and slurred speech.

Don’t drive if affected by sleeping medication.

They may also lead to dependence both physical and psychological (especially taken for long time in higher dose) and tolerance occurs. When this happens, it may be difficult to withdraw the drug after the patient has been taking it regularly for more than a few weeks.

Sleeping tablets should not be stopped suddenly. Your doctor will advise on how to stop them gradually.

Others

Need proper storage and keep out of the reach of children.

Tell doctor if you are alcoholic (or history) and drug abuser (or history) because you are more likely to get drug dependence.

Tell doctor if you are pregnant because some benzodiazepines (chlordiazepoxide and diazepam) are reported to increase the chance of birth defect when used during the first 3 months.

Tell doctor if you are breast feeding because this medication can cause drowsiness and difficulty in feeding.

Tips to have good sleep

Ideally, sleeplessness can be treated by cognitive behaviour therapy.

The following may help if you can’t sleep.

  • Keep to regular bedtimes – don’t sleep or doze during the day.
  • Don’t drink tea or coffee in the evening.
  • Have a set time for getting up in the morning.
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable; not too cold or too warm.
  • Read instead of watching television.
  • Sleeping problems are common. Try not to get frustrated if you can’t sleep.

 

Last reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Kamariah Shamsinar bt. Kamarul Baharin
Reviewer : Mohammad Rizalmazli bin Salim