Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Are Sleeping Pills Bad For You?

Also Known As: hypnotic / soporific drugs



Short answer

The majority of sleeping pills are not good for you, especially if you do not precisely follow doctor instructions. The number of deaths and people reporting various problems seems to show that most people do not, in fact, follow doctors' orders. Even non-prescription sleeping pills, which contain antihistamines as their active ingredient (as opposed to CNS depressants) are dangerous and prone to abuse. The safest bet is to not take sleeping pills. There are many healthier, natural alternatives to induce sleep.



Long answer

Sleeping pills can be effective in extreme circumstances, but according to an estimated study, for anywhere between over a quarter million to just over half a million Americans per year, they can be a bit too effective. There are three types of sleeping pills, each with its own set of risks: benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines, and melatonin-receptor agonist (Ramelton). By far the riskiest of these are those that fall under the benzodiazepine group. 

Benzodiazepines include common anti-anxiety medicines such as Xanax and Valium. With a high risk of causing mental addiction through tolerance and psychological dependence, they can lead to a host of negative side effects including, but not limited to blurred vision, dizziness, shortness of breath, rash, and a feeling that the throat is closing. Less common, but far more serious, is a risk of anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that can be fatal. 

Nonbenzodiazepines are less likely to cause dependence, but can have side-effects such as dangerous sleep-related behavior (such as trying to drive while asleep) and worsened depression. Ramelton can also worsen depression, cause dizziness, and should be avoided if you have a severe liver problem. 

Furthermore, sleeping pills should not be taken with either alcohol or grapefruit (be it the fruit or juice). Alcohol increases the sedative effect and grapefruit increases the amount of the medicine absorbed and how long it stays in the body, which can lead to oversleeping / not being able to wake up.

One last word needs to be said about sleeping pills. Trying to overdose on sleeping pills is a common method of attempting suicide. The belief is that it is a painless way to leave this world. The fact is, however, it is anything but painless. One needs only to read several accounts from people who survived sleeping pill suicide attempts to understand how horrifically painful an overdose on sleeping pills is. Rather than dying, many who have attempted to commit suicide using sleeping pills end up in excruciating pain, paralyzed, suffer memory loss, confined to a wheelchair, and a host of other serious neurological problems.

Possible short-term side effects

  • not limited to:
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomitting
  • difficulty breathing
  • constriction of throat
  • blurry vision
  • headache
  • imbalance
  • tingling

Possible long-term side effects

  • not limited to:
  • psychological dependence
  • increased depression
  • feeling worse the day after

Possible withdrawal symptoms

  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • poor concentration
  • asocial behavior
  • fatigue
  • restless sleep


  • helps people with insomnia

Healthier alternatives

  • more physical activity during the day
  • deep breathing exercises before bed
  • cut the caffeine four hours prior to bed
  • drink tart cherry juice
  • consume other foods that promote sleep:
  • whole grains
  • kale
  • bananas
  • chickpeas

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 01-03-2016
Last updated: 11-28-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 01-03-2016
Last updated: 11-28-2023

Random Page

Check These Out!