Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: sleeping | pill | danger | risk | rem

Are Sleeping Pills Dangerous?

By    |   Monday, 16 September 2013 09:50 AM

Question: I am an 84-year-old man and have been suffering from insomnia for several years. I am currently taking over-the-counter sleeping aids. I take one tablet before going to bed and wake up three to four hours later when I take another tablet which carries me over for another three to four hours. Is this habit dangerous if taken for a long period of time?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
Most over the counter pills marketed for sleep rely on a side effect of sedation to produce drowsiness, and are not selective sleep induction agents.  I generally avoid them because of the drowsiness that so often drags into the next morning, and lack of clean REM sleep.
Although the pills are not dangerous, you will probably feel more rested with a complete sleep. See your doctor and be sure that you are not awakening because of an airway obstruction or sleep apnea. Ask your wife or significant other to tell you if you snore. If so, get evaluated for sleep apnea. If not, ask your doctor for a prescription sleep aid to see if you feel better after an eight-hour sleep.
Many of us actually sleep less as we age, and somehow manage very well. An afternoon nap can help. So, do not worry, but have yourself evaluated to be sure you don't have an underlying condition. I have yet to find anyone who uses over the counter sleep aids after they have access to more selective agents under their doctor's recommendation, supervision, and prescription.

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Most over the counter pills marketed for sleep rely on a side effect of sedation to produce drowsiness and aren't the best option.
Monday, 16 September 2013 09:50 AM
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