Long-Term Side Effects & Risks Of Sleeping Pills

Prescription sleep aids can be safely used for a short period under the guidance of a board-certified physician. Abusing these medications can cause long-term side effects, including a risk of addiction.

Sleeping pills are classified as “sedative hypnotics,” a class of drugs used for those who have sleep problems. Although prescription sleep aids and over-the-counter sleep aids can be helpful sleep medications, they should only be used occasionally.

Those who have trouble sleeping due to insomnia or other sleep disorders may benefit from certain sleeping pills. Unfortunately, people can become increasingly dependent on sleep medicine.

When sleeping pills are abused, it can cause serious long-term side effects and pose risks for those who develop a dependency to the medication.

General Effects Of Sleeping Pills

Generally, some of the side effects of sleeping pills may include:

  • constipation
  • dry mouth
  • drowsiness
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • unusual dreams
  • heartburn
  • change in appetite

These short-term side effects can persist or worsen. An allergic reaction and other serious side effects may take place, but they should not be confused with long-term side effects.

Long-Term Side Effects Of Sleeping Pills

Sleep aids can cause long-term consequences to your health and wellness. If you’re using sleeping pills for the treatment of insomnia or another health condition, long-term use can still lead to a number of side effects.


Some of the common long-term side effects you may experience include:

  • hallucinations
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • depression
  • memory Problems

Although seen frequently with older adults who abuse or use sleeping pills for long-term use, memory problems can affect those at any age. Confusion may occur, causing a person to have memory loss.

Next-Day Problems

Another long-term effect of sleeping pills can include next-day impairment. These are problems that take place the day after taking your pill.

Although the sleeping aid may have helped you rest well the night before, you may experience difficulty concentrating and extreme drowsiness the next day.

This can lead to a number of unexpected concerns such as:

  • falls
  • motor vehicle accidents
  • drownings
  • concussions
  • lack of coordination

Risks Of Sleeping Pill Use & Abuse

While many prescription drugs assist with your health, sleeping pills have a number of risks associated with them, especially older people who are more likely to experience injuries from falls and memory troubles.


One of the main risks of taking sleeping pills is the possibility of an overdose, especially for those who abuse the drugs. A person experiencing an overdose may suffer from a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate fluctuations, and breathing issues.


A great risk of taking sleeping pills for prolonged periods of time include the development of parasomnias or odd behaviors.

For instance, a person taking a sleeping pill can be unaware that they are:

  • sleep driving
  • sleepwalking
  • sleep eating
  • having sex
  • exhibiting odd behaviors

A person taking sleep medication may experience these unusual behaviors without ever being fully awake. This can be hazardous and can cause problems similar to next-day issues such as accidents or falls.

Polydrug Use

Those who take sleeping pills should speak with their healthcare provider before taking other medications. Other “sedative hypnotics” include benzodiazepines such as temazepam (Restoril). Sometimes benzodiazepines are used to treat sleeping problems for short-term use.

Those who take antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or who drink alcohol may need to steer clear of other prescription and illegal drugs which also affect your central nervous system (CNS).

Combining medications can lead to a number of life-threatening issues such as:

  • unresponsiveness
  • slowed heart rate
  • coma
  • overdose
  • extreme confusion


Sleeping pills can become habit-forming for those who take the medication for long-term use. As a person begins to take sleeping pills that are effective at treating their sleep disorder, some may become dependent on the drug each and every night.

When this occurs, a person may tend to take higher doses to aid in their sleep. It’s also possible that a person may turn to other drugs to help with their sleeping disorder.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Serious withdrawal symptoms are another risk of taking sleeping pills for long periods of time. For instance, a person who abruptly stops taking their medication may experience rebound insomnia.

Rebound insomnia may take place shortly after a person stops taking their sleeping pills, especially if they stopped “cold turkey.” Rebound insomnia can bring about more sleep troubles and can even lead to vivid dreams and nightmares.

Types Of Sleep Medications

There are a wide variety of sleep medications that can be prescribed to those suffering from sleep disorders.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some prescription sleeping pill medications include:

  • eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • zaleplon (Sonata)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • zolpidem (Ambien)
  • triazolam (Halcion)

Sleeping pills are also known as “Z-drugs” because they are considered the next generation of sleeping medicines due to their effectiveness.

There are also over-the-counter medications which contain antihistamines. These include well-known allergy medications such as Benadryl. Others opt for supplements such as melatonin or valerian.

Get Treatment Today

If you suffer from a sleeping problem, you can also try other forms of treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). To learn how we can help, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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