Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
January 11, 2019

Understanding the Most Common Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills is a term that is often used to describe both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications used to help individuals that have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Sleeping pills are sedatives that are formulated to help extend or promote sleep. Sleep drugs are also sometimes classified as hypnotics. Many do not realize that while sleeping pills can be beneficial for those suffering from sleep disorders like narcolepsy or insomnia, they can also have serious side effects if they are abused, taken too often, or consumed in too high of a dose. There are a number of very dangerous side effects of sleeping pills and various ways in which they affect the human body if taken for an extended period of time.

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills: What You Need to Know

Sleeping aids and pills can have a number of serious side effects that can be potentially dangerous. Though many individuals take sleeping pills to improve their night of sleep, it’s important to discuss the potential side effects and long-term risks with a physician before taking sleeping aids. Below are a handful of the most common side effects and symptoms of sleeping pills.

  • Headaches
  • Oversleeping
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and/or diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Prolonged drowsiness. This can be more common with prescription sleeping pills formulated to help individuals stay asleep. For some, this can present trouble driving safely into work or performing normal activities as they normally would.
  • Daytime memory and performance problems. Some individuals taking sleeping pills may experience memory or performance problems during the day as a result of the sleeping pills as they may be less alert due to drowsiness.
  • Sleep-related behaviors. Some individuals that take sleeping pills may begin to exhibit sleep-related behaviors, such as eating, walking, having sex, leaving the house, making phone calls, driving, and/or carrying on conversations while not fully awake. Individuals may not be aware that these activities took place as they are doing them while they are asleep. This can present a number of issues and potential dangers, such as if an individual is driving while not fully awake, their reaction time can be compromised and their risk of an auto accident increased.

Long-Term Risks of Taking Sleeping Pills

In addition to the potential side effects, individuals who take sleeping pills can experience a number of long-term risks as well. Below is a break down of a few of the most critical long-term risks of sleeping pills.

Your Body Can Quickly Build a Tolerance

Just like with many other forms of medication, if you continuously take sleeping pills over time, your body can build up a tolerance to sleeping pills. This means that as you continue to take sleeping pills, they will become less effective as your body becomes accustomed to the dosage you are taking.

To maintain their effectiveness, the dose will have to be increased. However, continuing to increase the dose of sleeping pills can present dangerous and potentially fatal side effects. For example, if you increase the dose too much, your breathing could become depressed as your sleep, which can lead to death. To prevent your body from building up a tolerance, it is critical that you taper off your sleeping medication when it is no longer needed.

It Can Be Difficult to Wean Off of Sleeping Pills

Another long-term risk of sleeping pills is that for some individuals it can be difficult to wean off of sleeping pills, particularly if the individual has a history of substance abuse or drug addiction. When you take sleeping pills over an extended period of time and then suddenly stop, your sleep issues can worsen significantly, which can cause some to go back on the sleeping pills. This is sometimes called rebound insomnia.

Because your body has become reliant on the sleeping pills to establish sleep patterns, it can have difficulty forming new sleep patterns when the sleeping pills are quickly reduced. To prevent this issue, it is important to work with the prescribing physician to gradually lessen the dosage of the sleeping pills over time so that you can wean yourself off of them safely and without worsening any sleep issues. By following a schedule that gradually reduces the dosage, your body can ease back into having sleep patterns without relying on sleep medicine.

If you or someone you love think they may be addicted to sleeping pills, it may be a good idea to seek inpatient drug rehab treatment to overcome the addition.

Before taking prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills, it is always important to meet with a licensed medical professional to discuss the potential side effects and to find a method of treatment that is right for you both in the short-term and long-term.


  1. Cleveland Clinic. “Sleeping Pills.” Retrieved from
  2. Everyday Health. “The Risks of Taking Sleeping Pills.” Retrieved from
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Prescription Sleeping Pills: What’s Right For You?” Retrieved from