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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Benzodiazepines for Sleep?

Article Details
  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Some people use benzodiazepines for sleep when they experience insomnia, because this class of drugs is known for relaxing people enough to allow them to fall asleep. This medication usually is considered safe to take short-term, and its other benefits include the fact that it typically works quickly and comes in a variety of forms. On the other hand, it usually is not advised that people use benzodiazepines for sleep on a long-term basis, because the drugs may stop working or become addictive. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include irritability, shakiness and insomnia. It is possible to overdose on this medication when it is combined with other drugs, but even when the proper dosage is taken, some people notice unpleasant side effects.

One of the most common reasons for taking benzodiazepines for sleep is that they tend to work quickly. This means people often can get to sleep soon after taking them instead of lying awake wondering when they will kick in. An additional benefit is that benzodiazepines come in various forms and, while pills usually are the most common options, these drugs also can be injected or taken rectally when necessary. In general, this type of medication usually is considered among the best for patients struggling with short-term insomnia.

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By contrast, benzodiazepines usually are not recommended for long-term use, because they are known to be addictive. This is especially true for people who have a history of abusing drugs of any kind. Even those who do not become addicted often find that they develop tolerance, in which case the drug no longer helps them get to sleep. In addition, those who take benzodiazepines for sleep long-term and then suddenly stop taking them tend to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. These frequently include muscle spasms, shakiness and irritability, along with the inability to sleep.

Another drawback of using benzodiazepines for sleep is that they usually have side effects. For example, many people become dizzy, uncoordinated and drowsy before they fall asleep, sometimes resulting in injuries caused by falls. Such side effects of benzodiazepines are not only bothersome, but can be dangerous for those who choose to drive or operate machinery right after taking the medication. Some people also find that memory loss is a side effect, along with depression, reduced libido and confusion. An additional problem with using benzodiazepines for sleep is that while people are unlikely to overdose on this type of medication alone, they are at risk of overdosing when they combine it with alcohol or other drugs.

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