Sleep pills are one of the most common prescriptions given by doctors in the United States, but they can be dangerous.
Every night, Americans have trouble falling asleep. Many opt to use sleeping pills. Some are encouraged to do so by their doctors, while others are influenced by marketing.
Estimates show about 60 million Americans use sleeping pills every year. That number continues to grow. Generic pills have increased market growth. Americans are spending $2 billion on prescription sleep aids in 2010. Sleep pills are big business.
Types of Sleeping Pills
Sleep pills are taken to help users fall asleep. Most work by causing drowsiness. Some prescribed sleeping pills are drugs used to treat other issues, but they cause users to feel sleepy as a side effect. Pills come in many different strengths. You can even buy some sleep pills over-the-counter, so no doctor’s visit is needed.
The most commonly prescribed sleeping pills include:
- Benzodiazephines: this medication has been available for many years and works by altering the GABA receptors in the brain, which control a person’s level of alertness. Sleep aids that affect GABA receptors include Xanax, Valium, and Halcion. These are commonly given to people with anxiety issues and other mood disorders. These medications are available with a prescription.
- Selective GABA Sleeping Pills: this type of sleep aid also targets the GABA receptors in the brain, but are very exact. They are only used to cause sleepiness. Common examples of Selective GABA Sleeping Pills include Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, and Ambien CR. You can only get these with a prescription.
- Sleep Cycle Modifiers: this drug affects the area of the brain that regulates when you feel tired and when you feel alert. It is a prescription medication called Ramelteon.
- Diphenhydramine: OTC sleep aid found in allergy relief medications, as well as Tylenol PM, Excedrin PM, and Nytol. This medication is given to people suffering from mild insomnia.
Sleeping Pills Trigger Side Effects
No matter what sleeping pill you take, you are likely to have side effects. They can range from mild to severe. For people with serious issues sleeping, mild side effects might be worth the trouble. However, if your sleep problems are mild or only occur sometimes you should avoid sleep pills. You should also speak to your doctor about other options if you do have serious side effects from using sleep pills.
Some of the most common side effects of sleeping pills include:
- Poor memory
- Sleep walking
- Drowsiness during daytime hours
There is also a chance sleeping pill usage might be linked to an increased risk for cancer.
Legal Action against Sleeping Pill Makers
Despite sleeping pills helping to treat insomnia, users have experienced a number of unpleasant side effects. In some cases, people taking sleep pills were injured.
In response to these unexpected side effects, some are taking legal action against the makers of sleep aids. Users have complained sleep aids have caused them to engage in harmful actions while sleeping.
In one instance, a user sleep walked while using Ambien, which led to an injury. Others claim they have eaten or driven while sleeping. Lawsuits allege the makers of the pills knew of the risks but failed to warn doctors and consumers about the dangers. Many also believe sleeping pill makers have failed to alert consumers to the addictive nature of the medication.