On the surface, prescription sleep aids can seem like the perfect cure for insomnia: Take a pill, and a few minutes later you slip into a restful sleep. Though they do have legitimate uses, sleeping pills also come with significant risks and side effects, which many people don’t realize.
You Can Quickly Build Up a Tolerance
When you take prescription sleeping pills over a long period of time, your body grows accustomed to the drug, and you need higher and higher doses to get the same sleep-inducing effect. But, if you take a high enough dose, this could lead to depressed breathing while you sleep, which can cause death. To minimize your risk for this side effect, don’t take sleeping pills for longer than a week or two.
Erratic Behavior Side Effects: We’ve all been known to do strange things in our sleep, but prescription sleeping pills, particularly benzodiazepines such as triazolam, have been known to cause side effects like sleepwalking and amnesia. “You’ll wake up, and you won’t know where you are,” Leavey says. This has also been seen in people who have taken the newer sleep aids like Ambien. If you (or your significant other) notice evidence of strange behavior while you’re taking sleeping pills, report these problems with sleeping pills to your doctor promptly.
You May Have Trouble Weaning Off Sleeping Pills
Once you begin taking sleeping pills, it can be hard to stop, particularly if you’ve been taking them for a long time. Some people experience “rebound insomnia” — when sleeping problems actually worsen once you stop taking the drug. If you want to go off your sleeping pills, talk to your doctor about setting up a schedule to gradually reduce your dosage, rather than just quitting cold turkey.