Why are doctors generally reluctant to prescribe sleeping tablets?
by Karen Bailey
Like any drug, there is no such thing as a perfect ‘pill’ that cures without side effects. A perfect sleeping drug would help you overcome insomnia and the effect of sleep deprivation without any problematic side effects.
They are used of course in particularly bad cases of insomnia almost as a last resort. But the list of side effects is almost worse than the insomnia the tablet is designed to help.
The most common sleeping tablets are the benzodiazepines (sometimes used to treat anxiety, sleeping problems and other disorders. Examples include: diazepam (trade name Valium®), lorazepam (trade name Ativan®), chlordiazepoxide, (trade names Librium® and Tropium®), alprazolam, oxazepam, temazepam, nitrazepam, flurazepam, loprazolam, lormetazepam, clobazam and clonazepam.and Z drugs (zaleplon, zolpidem, and zopiclone).
Potential side effects include the following:
Ongoing drowsiness.This may make you unsafe to drive or operate machinery.
Clumsiness and drowsiness during the night causing accidents and injury
Tolerance. with some drugs (mainly benzodiazepines and Z drugs) If taken regularly the body can get used to them and demand higher doses to be effective. This can happen inside two weeks of use.
Dependance. It is possible to get addicted to some of the drugs with subsequent withdrawal symptoms.
In some cases, sleeping tables have been known to worsen sleep apnea (deep pausing to breathing whilst asleep).
A doctor may prescribe a drug to help get you over a really bad problem but will usually limit the time period to two to four weeks due to the above problems.
However, If you are using benzodiazepine or Z drug sleeping tablets and you want to reduce or stop them, it is best to consult a doctor or nurse for advice. Usually it is best to do it gradually and cut the dose down a little at a time.