The Dangers of Overusing Sleeping Pills
All medications you use have side effects, even those you purchase at the pharmacy. Many of those side effects are very minor and don’t interfere with your long-term health, but overusing any medication can have serious consequences.
Sleeping pills are not typically dangerous for occasional use, and the risk of lack of sleep needs to be considered compared to what dangers they may present. For those who travel or who work swing shifts, they can be necessary so a person gets the sleep they need every night. A lack of sleep can lead to a loss of concentration during the day as well as irritability and mood swings, weight gain, falling asleep at inappropriate times, and other serious health concerns. Taking the occasional sleeping pill can help with these concerns.
However, overusing sleeping pills or using them regularly can lead to even more serious health conditions. Studies have shown that those who take sleeping pills regularly, even as few as 18 per year, are some four times more likely to die an early death than those who do not! There is also a higher percentage of cancer cases for those who use sleeping pills regularly.
The studies do not say if the sleeping pills themselves are the problem or if underlying health conditions that cause people to take sleeping pills is more to blame. As an example, a person may take sleeping pills because their obesity gives them aches and pains that keep them awake at night. Their obesity has severe health risks including heart disease, heart attacks, breathing disorders, and a higher risk of cancer. The sleeping pills can also give them a higher risk of sleep apnea, which is a cessation of breathing during sleep. If a person does not quickly recover from episodes of sleep apnea, they can actually die during sleep.
When a person takes sleeping pills along with alcohol this can cause damage to the liver as the liver is less able to filter out the elements of the sleeping pills when alcohol is introduced. This too can cause an unusually deep sleep so that they could accidentally die during their sleep, because of sleep apnea or an overdose of the sleeping pills themselves.
Addressing the underlying cause of sleeplessness is always recommended for patients rather than simply relying on the pills themselves. Cut out caffeine and sugar and things like artificial preservatives in your foods. Try relaxing foods like milk, bananas, or decaffeinated tea. Reduce stress with yoga or other practices, and get regular exercise every day so that you’re tired at night. If you still have problems with sleeplessness, speak to your doctor about other solutions.