In the past, benzodiazepines were the first-line treatment for sleeping difficulties. These medications are mainly used to relieve anxiety, but because sleepless nights are often caused by anxiety, benzodiazepines are also indicated in the treatment of insomnia.

In recent times, however, a newer group of medications called non-benzodiazepines have become available and they are primarily used to treat trouble sleeping. Also known as the Z-drugs, these medications include zolpidem, zopiclone and eszopiclone.

Although the benzodiazepine and non-benzodiazepine sleeping pills have different chemical structures, they both work by adjusting natural brain chemistry. They enhance the effect of a natural calming chemical called GABA, so they add to the relaxing effect that is already produced in the body.

What Is insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that happens when a patient has reduced sleep quantity or quality, despite having the opportunity to achieve sleep. It is characterised by difficulty commencing sleep at the start of the night or regularly experiencing night-time or early-morning awakenings. A person with this condition is typically unable to stay asleep for a decent amount of time, and this ultimately leads to daytime symptoms like excessive sleepiness.

The length of time these symptoms last dictates the type of insomnia. For the majority of people, this sleep disorder lasts less than a few months. Trouble sleeping for short-term periods tends to affect about 30 to 35% of adults. It is often caused by a stressful life event. For example, moving into a new house or going through a relationship breakup such as divorce.

Short-term sleeping problems usually involve a few weeks of tossing and turning at bedtime, while your mind tries to make sense of the change you have experienced. This is known as acute insomnia and it usually happens after we experience a change of some sort. It is generally short-lived and resolves on its own once our minds have adjusted to the change.

For about 10% of adults, sleeping difficulties become a chronic or long-term problem, happening at least 3 nights a week and for 3 months or longer. This can be caused by poor sleep hygiene, shift work, anxiety, depression, or even side effects of medications. Long-term sleeping difficulties can lead to various health consequences, which include the following:

  • Symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure
In general, the more significant the extent of sleep deprivation, the greater the likelihood will be that a person will suffer from the abovementioned symptoms. For this reason, finding an effective treatment is advisable so the negative health consequences of chronic sleeping difficulties can be minimised. Although good sleep hygiene habits are usually recommended first, many people benefit from sleeping pills, particularly when used as advised.

Medications that Help You Sleep

Now that you are familiar with the types of insomnia, you may want to find the most suitable treatment for your particular condition. When it comes to treating sleeping problems, most healthcare specialists recommend the non-benzodiazepine group of medications. Compared with benzodiazepines, particularly long-acting benzodiazepines, these medications have the following benefits:

  • Most non-benzodiazepines have a short half-life so they help you sleep without causing daytime effects like sleepiness or reduced concentration.
  • They are unlikely to affect the different stages of sleep so your sleep architecture generally remains the same.
  • In sleep studies, these medications have been shown to have a low risk for tolerance, dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
Although the non-benzodiazepines are recommended for trouble sleeping, some patients may prefer the benzodiazepine group. For instance, if you are experiencing acute anxiety or treating an anxiety disorder like panic disorder, these medications may be more suitable.

Oftentimes, people with panic disorder treat this condition with alprazolam, also well known by the brand name Xanax. The combined use of benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines is not recommended because they have a similar mechanism of action so concurrent use increases the likelihood of side effects. Hence, a patient who is treating panic disorder with alprazolam during the daytime will generally also use this medication to treat sleeping difficulties at night-time.

Can Sleeping Pills Cause Adverse Reactions?

A widely held but untrue belief is that sleeping medications usually cause troublesome side effects like sleepwalking. The fact of the matter is that this side effect is extremely rare and more likely to happen if these medications are used with alcohol or antidepressants.

Only about 10% of people experience common sleeping pills side effects, which are usually mild and easy to cope with. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to know how to manage common side effects if you do experience them.

Sleep aids that contain sedative or sedative-like substances can cause drowsiness when one wakes up in the morning. Therefore, if you experience this side effect, avoid concentration-based activities until you feel more alert. In general, this adverse effect disappears as your body gets used to the therapeutic.

Some people may experience muscle weakness during treatment. If this side effect happens, try reducing the dose and make sure you get plenty of rest. Another relatively common side effect is an unusual taste in the mouth or dry mouth. This can be prevented by taking regular sips of water and using mouthwash at night.

Sleep aids have been developed to help you get the sleep relief you need, while you tackle the issues that are causing your sleeping difficulties. If you have had consistent trouble sleeping, you can place an order online to get a good night’s sleep and re-establish a healthy sleeping pattern.

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How Should Treatment Be Safely Discontinued?

In general, these medications should not be taken for extended periods of time as tolerance and dependence may develop. If these treatments are taken for longer than a few weeks, one could find it difficult to fall asleep without the medication due to the development of dependence.

To reduce the risk of dependence, the medication should be slowly tapered off at the end of treatment. The gradual tapering-off process should be done over a few weeks or even months. This will significantly decrease the chance of withdrawal symptoms and sleeping pills side effects.