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Pros and cons of sleeping pills

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

What do you know about sleeping pills? You probably think that they can help solve almost any sleep disorder. Let’s figure everything out!

Many doctors recommend to their patients who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders sleeping pills. This method is considered the most effective and fast, you do not need to lie in your bed for 2-3 hours counting sheep or trying to meditate, because by taking one pill you will get the desired sleep. According to statistics, most people around the world prefer this option to overcome sleep disorders.

Yes, these miracle pills can really help you fall asleep, but how about the effect, because they won't work for a long time. Therefore, based on this fact, international guidelines recommend that sleeping pills should be prescribed only for short-term (several weeks) or occasional use. These drugs are not recommended for people with a persistent sleep problem that last for many months or years.

Your doctor may also prescribe a drug that supposedly fights sleep problems, but in fact, it is intended for other purposes. These drugs might be antidepressant drugs (intended for people who are depressed) or antihistamine drugs (used to treat allergic reactions).

The fact is, antihistamines affect a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger in the brain, called ‘histamine’, which works to promote wakefulness. By taking such drugs, you can feel sleepy by blocking histamine receptors in the brain. As for antidepressant drugs, they may be prescribed by doctors, when poor sleep is caused by depression or, alternatively, for the sedative properties of a number of antidepressant drugs. These drugs can help sleep through the effects on serotonin, histamine or melatonin.

Such drugs are known as ‘off-label prescribing’, and some doctors prefer them because they can prescribe them on a longer-term basis.

In addition, you should know that there are some drugs specifically licensed as sleeping pills. These include drugs known as benzodiazepines, which were originally developed to treat anxiety (often ending with the suffix ‘-epam’, for example temazepam), and a similar group (often beginning with the letter ‘Z’, for example zopiclone) which are a bit less habit forming, though they act on the same brain receptors.

These brain receptors, called GABA receptors, respond to the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is involved in the inhibition of arousal and promotion of sleep.

Moreover, melatonin (a hormone involved in the regulation of our body clock, and sleep-wake rhythms) is available on prescription for adults over 55 with chronic insomnia.

However, do not forget that self-medication can be dangerous to your health. Therefore, if you have any sleep disorders for a long or a short time, we strongly recommend you see a doctor. Take Care!

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