Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills can help alleviate insomnia when used temporarily or occasionally. However, long-term use may lead to serious consequences including dependence, withdrawal, addiction, and many accidents associated with these incidents. Not all of these side effects have been documented by the manufacturers of these sleeping pills, thus leading many patients harmed by these side effects to file lawsuits.

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What Are Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills are used for temporary relief from insomnia symptoms like restlessness or lack of quality sleep. There are both prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills available. Some pills are designed to help patients fall asleep, others help patients stay asleep, and others are designed to do both. 

These pills are not recommended for long-term use. Patients who are suffering from insomnia for long periods of time, especially after taking sleeping pills, should consult their doctor before continuing the use of sleep aids.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. Those who have it may experience difficulty in either falling asleep or staying asleep. People with insomnia may also wake up too early and then be unable to get back to sleep. Insomnia can be either acute or chronic. Acute insomnia is short-term insomnia and typically lasts for either a few days or a few weeks, while chronic insomnia can last for a month or longer. Insomnia can be a symptom of another medical condition, a side effect of a medication or treatment, or a primary condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

The symptoms of insomnia may include:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up early
  • Not feeling well-rested after sleeping
  • Feeling tired or sleepy during the day
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Worrying about sleep
  • Increased errors
  • Increased accidents
  • Trouble focusing
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Trouble remembering things

What Causes Insomnia?

Chronic insomnia can be caused by a wide range of things, including:

  • Stress
  • Travel schedule (jet lag)
  • Work schedule
    • Late shifts
    • Early shifts
    • Frequently changing shifts
  • Poor sleep habits
    • Irregular bedtime schedule
    • Uncomfortable sleeping environment
    • Stimulation too close to bedtime
    • Technology (phones, computers, video games, etc.) too close to bedtime
    • Eating too close to bedtime
  • Mental health disorders
    • Anxiety
    • Stress
    • Depression
    • PTSD
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions
    • Chronic pain
    • GERD
    • Acid reflux
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Sleep apnea
    • Overactive thyroid
    • Alzheimer’s
    • Parkinson’s
    • Restless legs syndrome
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine

Who Is Most at Risk of Insomnia?

Insomnia tends to occur more commonly as we age. This means that older adults are more likely to experience insomnia than those who are younger, but it is possible for anyone of any age to develop insomnia. The risk factors for insomnia can include:

  • Being female
  • Age over 60
  • Stress
  • Irregular schedule
  • Mental health disorder
  • Physical health condition

What Complications Can Occur from Insomnia?

Insomnia can cause further complications in someone’s life that go beyond just being tired during the day. These complications can include:

  • Worse performance at work
  • Worse performance at school
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Higher risk of accidents
  • Slower reaction time
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Increased severity of high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased severity of heart disease

How Is Insomnia Treated?

Depending on the cause of the insomnia, doctors may work with a patient to change their lifestyle and sleep habits. In other cases, medications may be prescribed to treat the insomnia.

How Do Sleeping Pills Work? 

All sleep medications work on the brain to promote drowsiness. Whereas some drugs are specially designed to be sleeping pills, others just have sedation as a side effect.

What Are Over-The-Counter Sleeping Pills?

Over-the-counter sleeping pills contain an active ingredient that’s used in allergy or cold medicines called antihistamines. This ingredient causes drowsiness, but these pills haven’t been proven to aid in sleep-related issues alone. 

Some over-the-counter sleep aids are:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Doxylamine (Unisom)
  • Melatonin
  • Valerian

What Are the Side Effects of Over-The-Counter Sleeping Pills?

Side effects usually shown in over-the-counter sleeping pills include: 

  • Drowsiness persisted through the next day
  • Blurred vision
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sleepwalking
  • Dizziness 
  • Clumsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary retention and constipation

What Are Benzodiazepines?

These drugs are also called benzos and are a class of drugs to treat conditions such as anxiety or seizures. Benzos strengthens the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is associated with stress. This drug enhances GABA’s effectiveness which calms the brain down to become more tranquil. 

Some Benzodiazepines include: 

  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Quazepam (Doral)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clonazepam (Klonipin)

What Are Benzodiazepines Used To Treat?

These drugs cause sleepiness so they’re typically used by people who want to sleep better, relax their muscles, relieve their anxiety, and treat epilepsy. 

What Are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?

Benzos are fast-acting and can be extremely addictive. Some of the adverse side effects associated with taking benzos can include: 

  • Physical or psychological dependency
  • Reduced sleep quality
  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Rebound insomnia when pills are stopped 

What Are Non-Benzodiazepines?

These are newer forms of sleeping pills that were designed to cause less disruption to the patient’s sleep schedule. It has also been shown to not affect the patient’s ability to operate machinery or impair their memories as much as compared to benzos. 

Non-benzodiazepines include:

  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien)

What Are Non-Benzodiazepines Used To Treat?

Non-benzodiazepines, or Z-drugs, are fast-acting sleeping pills that can last up to eight hours. They’re used to calm anxiety and help promote sound sleep with no morning grogginess. Non-BZD drugs are most frequently prescribed drug class by physicians due to their minimal side effects, low potential for drug tolerance, and addiction. 

What Are the Side Effects of Non-Benzodiazepines?

Even though the effectiveness of these drugs seems to be more than benzos, they still come with their own set of side effects. 

Side effects of non-benzodiazepines can include: 

  • Drug tolerance
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Increased depression
  • Restricted breathing
  • Sleepwalking, sleep-eating, or sleep-driving
  • Rebound insomnia when pills are stopped

What Determines Which Sleeping Pills Patients Should Take?

It is ultimately up to doctors what drugs a patient should take as well as how much. It’s advisable that patients do not take sleep aids or drugs without consulting a doctor first. 

The following factors may influence the form of treatment that a doctor may recommend: 

  • Age
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Drug or alcohol dependencies
  • Heart problems
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Other medications the patient takes

What Are the FDA’s Warnings About Sleeping Pills?

After many patients came forward with complaints and lawsuits, the FDA began to enforce the addition of Boxed Warnings for certain prescription insomnia medications. In 2019, the FDA released a safety announcement advising that rare but serious injuries have occurred to patients who took Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, and other prescription medicines. 

Are Sleeping Pills Still on the Market?

After the FDA’s safety announcement and the implementation of Boxed Warnings on sleeping pills, there have been no pushes by the FDA or drug manufacturers to take sleeping pills off the market. As of October 2023, all sleeping pills mentioned above are still on the market with the addition of the FDA’s boxed warning. 

Why Are There Sleeping Pill Lawsuits?

Patients have recorded exhibiting a series of side effects they didn’t expect from their sleeping medications. Some of these side effects include memory loss and sleepwalking, talking, and eating. When patients are unaware of their actions, they may participate in dangerous activities or end up eating foods that aren’t safe for the body. Lawsuits are claiming that the drugs that produce these sleeping drugs aren’t adequately warning their users of the possible dangers. 

Why Are Plaintiffs Filing Sleeping Pill Lawsuits?

Since there are a wide range of sleeping pills, there are a variety of side effects and injuries. The recorded side effects that many have recorded are short-term memory loss, sleepwalking, sleeptalking, and sleep binge-eating. More serious cases have been reported where plaintiffs have exhibited symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations, depression, and paranoia. This leads many plaintiffs to participate in dangerous activities such as driving cars, having unsafe sex, eating raw food, or hurting others. 

Are There Sleeping Pill Lawsuit Settlements?

While there have been thousands of individual cases involving a multitude of sleeping pills and their side effects, there have been no class-action lawsuits or settlements in the United States. 

Are There Active Sleeping Pills Lawsuits?

Active lawsuits are typically filed on an individual basis, as there are no active class-action or federal lawsuits as of October 2023.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA. 


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