Doctors prescribe sleeping pills to treat short-term insomnia, and this intervention has been successful. But in exchange for a good night’s sleep, some people use and abuse sleeping pills, leading to sleeping pill addiction. With easy access to prescriptions from medical professionals, it is no surprise why a lot of people fall prey to the sleeping pill addiction.

People assume they can’t possibly be addicted to sleeping pills, and some claim to get this information from their doctor. Yet, some people cannot fall asleep without taking a sleeping pill. Their sleeping pill tolerance increases in the long term, and they find themselves taking larger doses to achieve the desired effect.

At this point, there is no way of saying they become dependent on sleeping pills and possibly get addicted. As they stop taking sleeping pills, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, which would indicate dependence and addiction.

Are you worried you may have sleeping pills dependency, or are you concerned that a loved one uses and abuses sleeping pills? Read further.


What Are Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills are categorized as drugs called sedative-hypnotics. The most common sleeping pills available in the US market now are Ambien (zolpidem), Sonata (zaleplon), and Lunesta (eszopiclone). These are the commonly prescribed pills, but there are more drug classifications available. Although sleeping pills have different molecular makeups, they have a similar effect, which is to induce sleep.

Sleeping pills is a general term for prescription drugs like antidepressants and benzodiazepines. However, that are other sleep aids that can be bought over the counter like antihistamine and natural supplements like melatonin. Prescription sleeping pills may not be purchased over the counter in a pharmacy, which means you’ll need a doctor’s prescription to buy them.

A doctor may prescribe sleeping pills to treat insomnia for a few to several weeks. This means the prescription is limited, depending on the doctor’s evaluation. Other people consult with different doctors to get a new prescription for sleeping pills, which may be a sign of an addiction to sleeping pills.

What is Sleeping Pill Addiction?

Sleeping pill addiction starts with an increase in tolerance. Tolerance turns into dependence, and this results in addiction. The first sign of addiction is when a person cannot fall asleep without taking sleeping pills.

Those who are addicted to sleeping pills may exhibit signs like:
  • Needing higher doses to fall asleep
  • In a cycle of trying to quit but fails
  • Ignoring social, family, professional, or school obligations (because of being too pre-occupied with getting more pills or lacking sleep because they don’t have sleeping pills anymore)
  • Appearing to be confused and detached all the time
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Engaging in harmful activities or exhibiting dangerous behaviors while under the influence of sleeping pills
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when abruptly stopping their medication
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed before
  • Craving sleeping pills or higher doses
  • Experiencing mood swings if unable to take sleeping pills
  • Continuing to take sleeping pills despite being aware of the adverse effects
  • Experiencing memory loss as a result of taking too many sleeping pills
  • Going to different doctors to get a new prescription

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

Doctors prescribe sleeping pills for short-term use to return to normal sleeping patterns as a treatment for insomnia. However, other people use and abuse sleeping pills even during the daytime when feeling anxious or distressed.

Since sleeping pills are sedative-hypnotics, they produce a similar euphoric high and hallucinatory effects, especially in higher doses, which is addictive to some. The side effects of sleeping pills include:
  • Burning or tingling sensation in the extremities (arms, hands, feet, and legs)
  • Uncontrollable shaking of the extremities
  • Changes in the appetite (overeating or eating less)
  • Lack of balance or coordination
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Feeling drowsy during the daytime
  • Feeling thirsty all the time or having a dry mouth
  • Passing of gas or farting frequently
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Feeling sleepy or groggy the next day
  • Memory or attention problems
  • Stomach upset
  • Unusual dreams
  • Feeling tired or weak all the time

Sleeping pills, combined with alcohol and other sleep aids, can produce negative side effects. In long-term use, taking the drug can affect brain functions, making their recovery more challenging.

Often, those who overly use sleeping pills and quit suffer rebound insomnia. This is an even worse form of insomnia than when it started.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Causes Sleeping Problems?

Finding it hard to fall asleep at night or remain asleep is called insomnia. There are many causes of sleeping problems. They can be caused by stress, health conditions, jet lag, caffeine, or sleep disorders.

If you think you’re experiencing sleeping problems, sleeping pills are not the answer. Talk to a mental health professional first. A therapist or counselor can help you explore your emotions and get into the root cause of your sleeping problems. 

2. Is It Dangerous to Combine Sleeping Pills and Alcohol?

Yes, sleeping pills and alcohol are a dangerous combination. Both have sedating effects, so they can cause a person to stop breathing, which may lead to death when taken in high amounts. Most sleeping pills have a warning label not to take alcohol while using them, which should be followed strictly. 

3. Is It Safe to Take Sleeping Pills with Grape Juice?

When taking sleeping pills, do not eat grapefruit or drink grape juice. This increases the drug absorption rate of sleeping pills, which may lead to oversedation. 

4. Is Melatonin a Sleeping Pill?

No, melatonin is not a sleeping pill but a sleeping aid. Melatonin supplements mimic the action of the hormone melatonin in the body, which is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. The melatonin levels in the body are at their peak at night, thus promoting sleep.

Research shows that melatonin is an excellent sleep aid for those who suffer from sleep disorders, delayed sleep due to irregular work schedules, jet lag, and insomnia.

5. Is It Safe to Use Melatonin Every Night?

Yes, for short-term use, melatonin is safe to use every night, but when used long-term, it’s not safe anymore. Like sleeping pills, a person can build up a tolerance to melatonin and may need higher doses over time to take effect. This may affect the normal production of melatonin in the body.

Taking too much melatonin can cause grogginess the next day. Long-term use can also cause other drugs to be less effective, such as birth control pills and high blood pressure medications. 

How to Fall Asleep Without Sleeping Pills

To easily fall asleep at night with peace of mind is a luxury for some. Sleeping pills are not the best solution to enjoy a good night’s rest. There are many ways you can do it. If you want to sleep well at night without any sleeping aid, here are the dos and don’ts: 

The Dos:

  • Have a regular sleeping schedule, even on weekends (sleep and wake up at the same time of the day).
  • Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes in the morning or afternoon. Avoid high-intensity exercises hours before bedtime, although relaxing yoga can be done before bedtime to promote sleep.
  • Expose yourself to natural daylight during the day to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s production of the hormone called serotonin during the day. This helps a person feel calm and focused and improves the mood during the day. At night, the dark light triggers the brain to produce the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.
  • Take a hot shower before bedtime.
  • Drink warm milk before bed.
  • Try meditation, relaxation techniques, and deep breathing exercises before going to bed.
  • Ensure that you have a relaxing sleeping environment. It would be best to have a comfortable bed, pillow, mattress, and blanket. Make sure your room is not too hot, not too cold, not too bright, and has no distractions. If needed, use an eye mask and earplugs to sleep well.

The Don’ts:

  • Avoid using gadgets during bedtime. The blue light emitted by gadgets restrains the production of the hormone melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead, read a book or write in a journal to fall asleep.
  • Avoid spending too much time in your bed during the day. Don’t spend all your time watching TV or eating in bed.
  • Avoid distractions during sleeping hours. Keep your phone in silent or do not disturb mode.
  • Avoid consuming large meals before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages during the late afternoon or night (coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks).
  • Avoid drinking too many alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid stimulants like nicotine, chocolate, and certain medications before bedtime.
  • Avoid daytime napping if you find it hard to fall asleep at night.

Is Something Keeping You from Falling Asleep?

If you’ve tried the dos and dont’s mentioned above and still have trouble sleeping, consider consulting a therapist for any sleeping problems. You might be experiencing high levels of stress, causing you to lose sleep. If this is the issue, you need to talk to a therapist to explore the emotions you’re having. Once you address these issues and cope healthily, you can sleep peacefully at night in no time.

Addiction to sleeping pills might also become a problem and lead to physical dependence. You can consult with a mental health professional as well. Sleeping pill abuse can be classified as a substance abuse disorder, so before you develop an addiction to sleeping pills, consult with a therapist right away.

Talk to a counselor or therapist immediately through the telehealth counseling at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). Learn more tips on how you can sleep better at night. Enjoy your life and say goodbye to sleepless nights.

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