Sleeping Pills

About one in ten Americans report difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and about 60 million people use some form of sleeping pill at least once in a year. When used on a temporary or occasional basis, sleeping pills can help alleviate insomnia but long-term use may lead to serious consequences including dependence, withdrawal, addiction, and accidents. Some people who have been harmed by the use of sleeping pills have considered filing lawsuits against drug manufacturers.

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drug addiction sleeping pills

Sleeping Pill Overview

Sleeping pills can be a simple and effective way to catch up on rest after travelling has placed patients in a different time zone or their schedule has changed dramatically. There are both prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills available. Some sleeping pills can help patients fall asleep, some can help patients stay asleep, and some are designed to do both.

These pills are not recommended for long-term use, only as a temporary sleep aid. Patients suffering from persistent insomnia should consult a doctor because this is often an indication of an underlying physical or psychological issue and sleeping pills will not help to treat those issues, only the symptom of not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Sleeping Pill Lawsuits

Sleeping pills are prescribed to approximately 60 million people in the US each year. This large number of prescriptions reflects the fact that about one in every ten Americans reports serious difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. In addition to prescribed sleeping aids, a number of over-the-counter medications are also available for treating sleeplessness.

Sleeping pills help many people to get proper rest. However, there are a number of side effects that accompany many common sleeping aids. Not all of these side effects have been documented properly by drug companies. As a result, many sleeping pill lawsuits have been filed by patients harmed by sleeping aid side effects.

What Kind of Sleeping Pills are Recommended?

Both over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills have serious potential side effects, and these can vary from person to person, so a doctor should be consulted before any use. The dosage and how long the drug lasts in the patient’s system should also be carefully monitored to mitigate sleeping pill side effects. In many cases, patients have filed lawsuits against manufacturers for harm caused by sleeping pill side effects.

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

  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Trouble urinating
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Drug or alcohol dependencies
  • Conditions that effect metabolism
  • Heart problems
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Other medications, including herbal supplements
  • Age

Over-The-Counter Sleeping Pill Side Effects

Over-the-counter sleeping pills share the same main ingredient, antihistamine. Antihistamines are generally taken to treat allergies and common cold symptoms. Their effectiveness in aiding sleep has not been proven, yet their side effects are typically the same.

 The side effects of these sleeping pills include:

  • Drowsiness persisting through the next day
  • Blurred vision
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sleep walking
  • Dizziness
  • Clumsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary retention and constipation

There may also be severe reactions to other medication, especially antidepressants, medications for Parkinson’s, and risk of overdose if patients are already taking an allergy treatment. Over-the-counter sleep aids should not be taken if breastfeeding and should only be taken short-term.

Prescription Sleeping Pill Side Effects

Prescription sleeping pills utilize more varied ingredients, and thus the sleeping pill side effects are more varied based on which sleeping pill is being used. Some of the common types of prescription pills used to treat sleep disorders are benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines, and melatonin-receptor-agonists.


While these are the oldest form of sleeping pills that are still commonly used, doctors have begun to shy away from prescribing them because of the many known side effects. Some of these side effects include:

  • physical or psychological dependency
  • reduced sleep quality
  • persistent drowsiness
  • withdrawal symptoms
  • rebound insomnia when pills are stopped

All benzodiazepines are classified as controlled substances.

Benzodiazepines include:

  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • quazepam (Doral)
  • flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • chloridiazepoxide (Librium)
  • clonazepam (Klonipin)


These are newer forms of sleeping pills and carry a lower risk of dependency than benzodiazepines. However, these drugs have many known side effects as well, and some patients do not find them as effective in helping to fall asleep.

In January of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began to require manufacturers of drugs with the active ingredient zolpidem, such as Ambien, to lower the recommended dosage. This came about due to the levels of the drug found in patients, especially women, the morning after taking the drug, which may have contributed to episodes of sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep driving and other activities.

Non-benzodiazepines include:

  • eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • zaleplon (Sonata)
  • zolpidem (Ambien)

Side effects of non-benzodiazepines include:

  • Drug tolerance
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Increased depression, including suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Restricted breathing
  • Newly developed sleep disorders such as sleep-walking, sleep-eating, or sleep-driving
  • Rebound insomnia when pills are stopped

Before Taking a New Sleep Aid

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.

Sleep pills are one of the most common prescriptions given by doctors in the United States, but they can be dangerous.

Prior to taking any new sleep aids, patients should:

  • Read about potential side effects
  • Ensure at least eight hours to sleep
  • Wait until all nightly activities are completed
  • Avoid alcohol consumption, as it may react with the pill
  • Read directions carefully, following dosage recommendations

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 sleepwalked 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.

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