Pick the one you want most

Allows us to better understand your problem

Sleep through the nightFall asleep fasterSleep without pills
Sleeping Pill Side Effects: Your Complete Guide"

Better Sleep Starts Now

Take Your Sleep Quiz
October 11, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide to Sleeping Pill Side Effects

Medically reviewed by: 

Discover insightful facts about sleeping pill side effects and confidently navigate the sea of insomnia treatment options.

To get started with Sleep Reset, all you need to do is take our sleep quiz! This will allow us to identify some of your key issues. After your quiz, you can choose to be assigned your own sleep coach and get our dedicated sleep program.

Understanding Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills, in essence, are medications designed to aid those suffering from insomnia, helping them fall asleep faster. 

Common Types of Sleeping Pills

Delving into the world of sleeping pills, we primarily encounter two categories: Benzodiazepines and Non-benzodiazepines. Both function to promote sleep but differ in their effects and side effects.

  • Understanding Benzodiazepines: These are older generation medications including flurazepam, temazepam, and triazolam, renowned for their sedative, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxing properties. However, they also carry a higher risk of dependency and withdrawal.
  • Getting to Know Non-Benzodiazepines: Known as 'Z-drugs', they comprise newer medications such as zolpidem, zaleplon, and eszopiclone. These have a shorter half-life and fewer side effects, making them a preferred choice for many patients and physicians.
  • Unpacking Zolpidem: Often marketed as Ambien, this is a common short-term treatment prescribed for insomnia. It works by slowing brain activity, allowing for sleep, but can also cause memory loss and abnormal behavior if misused or taken in excess.
  • Exploring Eszopiclone: Sold under the brand name Lunesta, this is another widely used sleeping aid, approved for long-term use. While it can effectively treat insomnia, dependency and withdrawal symptoms can occur when discontinued abruptly.

How Do Sleeping Pills Work?

The intersection of neurochemistry and medicine creates their signature sedative effect.

  • Influence on GABA, a neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity
  • Promotion of melatonin release to regulate sleep-wake cycles
  • Inhibition of serotonin and norepinephrine to decrease alertness
  • Activation of the brain's natural sleep systems

When Are Sleeping Pills Prescribed?

Primarily, sleeping pills are prescribed when lifestyle adjustments and non-medicated treatment strategies have failed to improve chronic insomnia or sleep disorders.

  • Patients battling chronic insomnia for a lengthy period.
  • Individuals who have failed to respond adequately to cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
  • Persons suffering from sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
  • Patients whose daily life functioning is adversely affected due to lack of qualitive sleep.
  • Individuals who suffer from frequent night wakings or difficulty falling asleep.

Risks Associated with Sleeping Pills

Because of their potential to cause harm, sleeping pills must always be used with caution. A long-term reliance on these medications can lead to an array of health risks, making it crucial to assess the benefits and risks thoroughly before beginning a regimen.

  • Alterations in mental and physical functioning
  • Increments on dependence and increased risk of addiction
  • Potential increase in mortality rate
  • Development of tolerance leading to increased dosage
  • Potential for severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Increased risk of falls and accidents

Potential Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

One can uncover a host of potential side effects that go beyond mere sleep induction. Possible effects include drowsiness, nausea, headaches, memory troubles, and even dependence.

Prescription sleeping pills may help induce sleep, but they can also potentially trigger a range of side effects from memory issues to dependence, and even sexual dysfunction.

The untold story of sleeping pills often includes a dark subplot of adverse reactions. From upset stomach and dizziness to appetite changes and sexual dysfunction, the cost of restful sleep might be high.

Drowsiness and Daytime Sleepiness

Ironically, your sleeping pills may be causing daytime sleepiness. These medications are intended to induce sleep, however, their effects may linger into your waking hours, reducing your daytime energy levels. It's crucial to monitor any changes in your daytime alertness.

Have you noticed an unusual level of drowsiness since starting your sleeping pill regimen? This is a common side effect experienced by many users. It can affect your ability to perform daily tasks safely and efficiently.

The intensity of drowsiness can vary greatly among individuals and is influenced by factors such as the type and dosage of the medication, your individual metabolism, and your overall health status. An adjustment to your sleeping pill regimen may be necessary to manage daytime sleepiness effectively.

Nausea and Upset Stomach

An unquiet belly can underscore your restful slumber. Prescription sleeping pills might be the source if you're often unsteady and queasy after use. Not everyone experiences this, but it's crucial to be cognisant of these common indicators.

Nausea isn't an idyllic way to welcome your waking hours. Sleeping pills, though effective, may exact a toll on your digestive system, causing an upset stomach as your body adjusts to the medication.

Be extra mindful if consuming food triggers discomfort along with your prescription. An upset stomach carries the potential to negatively affect your overall well-being, placing additional mental strain that could further entertain your insomnia.


Some individuals may experience headaches after consuming sleeping pills, a frequent side effect of these medications. The intensity of these headaches might vary, potentially disrupting your routine.

If you're undergoing headache woes and insomnia, you might inadvertently blame the wrong condition. The medication prescribed to alleviate your sleep issues may, paradoxically, be causing distressing headaches.

Understanding the relationship between your medication and headaches is crucial. Consulting with your doctor or pharmacist can empower you to make informed decisions about your health and the potential side effects of sleeping pills.

Memory Problems

Memory problems sit amongst a multitude of potential side effects incurred from sleeping pill usage. As such, the 'hidden cost' of these medications may involve memory impairments or even amnesia, raising concerns about their long-term implications on cognitive health.

Sleeping pills work by slowing brain activity, in turn, facilitating sleep. Yet, this calming effect can persist into the waking hours, clouding memory. This 'hangover effect' may often include temporary forgetfulness and trouble concentrating.

Distinctly, scenarios like not remembering activities performed right before bedtime (while the medication is taking effect) can occur. This 'anterograde amnesia' means new information isn't successfully transitioned from short-term to long-term memory while under the influence.

A common misconception is that memory issues only surface with prolonged sleeping pill use. However, even sporadic use can result in noticeable memory impairments, casting doubt on the notion of safe, occasional use.

Lastly, it is crucial not to ignore these memory issues. If experienced, it's recommended to consult your healthcare provider promptly. It might indicate a need to adjust the dosage, change the medication, or explore alternative treatments.

Dizziness and Lack of Coordination

A surging wave of unsteadiness often follows in the wake of sleeping pill ingestion - dizziness may become your unwelcome companion. Rooted in the pill’s function of slowing brain activity, this symptom can create a disorienting detachment from reality.

Staggering, clumsiness, or the sensation of the room spinning aren’t eerie horror movie effects; they could be side effects of your sleeping pills. This lack of coordination, while seldom serious, may lead to potentially hazardous situations, such as falling or stumbling.

Slipping into a tranquil sleep is the allure of sleeping pills, but navigating in a foggy haze afterwards is the less advertised downside. The drowsy after-effects of these medications can impair your daily functioning, by causing dizziness and loss of balance.

Moving through your day shouldn't feel like traversing uncertain ground, yet that's the reality for some who use sleeping pills. These drugs can induce unsteadiness, further bolstering the argument for careful, monitored usage of sleep-inducing medications.

If you relate to feeling like a wobbly sailor after a storm, your sleeping pills could be the silent culprits. Side effects such as dizziness and impaired coordination aren’t to be ignored; prompt discussion with your healthcare professional is paramount.

Changes in Appetite

Sleeping pills can unexpectedly alter your eating habits. Some individuals may experience increased cravings, while others may suffer from a diminished interest in food. It's crucial to recognize these changes as potential side effects to manage them effectively.

A paradoxical effect induced by sleeping pills is the sudden onset of food cravings or aversions. You might develop an appetite for foods you usually avoid or find your favorite dishes unappealing. This can complicate dietary habits and even nutritional intake.

These alterations in appetite may be short-lived or persistent, varying from one individual to another. Therefore, monitoring such changes when starting on sleeping pills is crucial. Should they occur, consider discussing them with your healthcare provider to devise a suitable coping strategy.

Dependence and Addiction

The risk of developing a dependence, or even an addiction, to sleeping pills poses a significant concerning factor. These medications are intended for short-term use. Prolonged use can lead to a destructive cycle of dependence, where the body requires more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. Ensnared in this addiction, breaking free becomes challenging without professional help, making the path to recovery often arduous. Additionally, quitting cold turkey can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Repeated use for extended periods creates tolerance and can potentially propel users into the clutches of addiction. Essentially, individuals may find themselves unable to function normally without the medication, causing severe sleep disruptions when attempted to cease. The subtle transition from aiding sleep to creating addiction characterizes the dark side of sleeping pills. For many, what started as a solution ends up as another problem to overcome.

Sleeping pills should never be viewed as a long-term solution to sleep struggles. Without proper medical guidance, the risk of slipping from use to abuse increases substantially, highlighting the importance of professional oversight during treatment.

The therapeutic use of sleeping pills requires strict adherence to prescribed doses. Any deviation from the prescribed regimen can trigger a cascading cycle of dependence and addiction. Utilizing sleeping pills as a crutch and not a treatment tool blurs the line between therapeutic use and substance abuse.

Sexual Dysfunction

Sleeping pills might potentially alter your sexual performance, often posing a blow to intimacy. Temporary sexual disorders including decreased libido, erectile dysfunction in men, and lower vaginal lubrication in women have been observed.

Closer examination reveals that sleeping pills can impact your sex life, transforming desire into dysfunction. Depression, a common side-effect of these medications, could contribute indirectly to a reduced sex drive.

The consequence of long-term use of sleeping pills can extend beyond sleep-related issues to affect intimate relationships. It's crucial to consider these potential implications and discuss them with your doctor before initiating treatment.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to sleeping pills could present as skin-related issues, such as a sudden, unexplained rash, hives, or itching. These reactions, while unpleasant, unequivocally signal an intolerance towards the medication critical to address immediately.

If you are facing symptoms such as itching, rash, or hives after taking sleeping pills, consider them as possible allergic reactions. Act promptly as these symptoms should never be ignored and require immediate consultation with a medical professional.

Managing Sleeping Pill Side Effects

Mitigating the impact of undesirable reactions requires collaboration with your healthcare provider. They can help refine your dosage or explore alternative drugs. Moreover, lifestyle modifications, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise, can also be beneficial in managing the side effects.

Strategies to manage sleeping pill side effects involve careful monitoring. Be aware of changes in your body's responses and report them to your doctor. A different medication regimen or adjusting your pill intake schedule may be recommended. Natural therapies, like cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBTI), are also increasingly adopted.

Talking to Your Doctor

Underscoring the importance of dialogue, the process of discussing potential side effects with your doctor is vital before prescription. This ensures informed decisions for the betterment of your health.

To open this imperative conversation, start with your concerns about taking sleeping pills. Explain your sleep habits, health history, and lifestyle factors impacting your insomnia.

Remember, valuable insights can be obtained from this discussion. It aids your doctor to comprehend your unique circumstances and prescribe the most suitable treatment plan, keeping potential side effects in mind.

Exploring Alternative Treatment Options

Exploring non-medical treatment options often proves helpful for those suffering from insomnia. Therapeutic avenues such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, meditation, and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques have shown positive results.

Lifestyle changes like maintaining a sleep schedule, practicing good sleep hygiene, and creating a restful environment can make a significant difference. These alterations may negate the need for medication.

Alternative insomnia treatments like acupuncture, yoga, and tai chi might seem unconventional but have documented success. These non-invasive methods can often bring much-needed relief, improving sleep patterns.

Diet and exercise also play crucial roles. Certain foods can induce quality sleep, while regular physical activity can enhance sleep duration and quality. Engaging with these alternatives could make sleeping pills unnecessary.

Start Sleeping Better With Sleep Reset Today!

If you're looking for a drug-free way to get better sleep, the Sleep Reset program can help. We use CBT-I principles to help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. Our free sleep quiz can help you identify the underlying causes of your sleep problems, so you can find the best solution for you.

Our program does not rely on harmful pills, melatonin or supplements – which means no grogginess, dependency, or long-term health risks. Instead of relying on quick fixes, we use proven techniques to address the root causes of your sleep issues and give you the long-term tools to manage your sleep. Our dedicated sleep coach will help you via daily text to provide accountability, support, and guidance.

The Sleep Reset program is available on iOS and Android.

Take the Sleep quiz now.