How Do I Choose Safe Sleeping Pills?

Madeleine A.

Choosing safe sleeping pills depends on how severe a person's insomnia is, and which other medications he is taking. If insomnia occurs only on occasion, over-the-counter sleeping pills are usually safe. The active ingredients in these tablets include diphenhydramine and acetaminophen. The combination of these two ingredients quickly induce sleep, but can cause daytime drowsiness.

Most sleeping pills work by depressing the central nervous system.
Most sleeping pills work by depressing the central nervous system.

Sometimes, insomnia can be disruptive to a person's daily routine. He might experience profound daytime sleepiness that prevents him from doing his job or impedes his driving skills. In these cases, a physician needs to be notified so that an effective treatment plan, which might include safe sleeping pills, can be employed. Before the physician prescribes general sleeping pills, he will usually take a detailed medical history and ask the patient if he is taking other medications.

Even safe sleeping pills can cause addiction, so they should be taken sparingly.
Even safe sleeping pills can cause addiction, so they should be taken sparingly.

Although medications prescribed by a doctor are generally considered safe sleeping pills, they can cause significant side effects. These can include profound tiredness, dizziness, and dry mouth. In addition, the pills can cause urinary retention, itchy skin, and dry eyes. Also, even safe sleeping pills can cause addiction or dependence, and should only be taken in extreme cases of insomnia, and only under the strict supervision of the physician.

Some prescription sleeping pills are less effective over time.
Some prescription sleeping pills are less effective over time.

Prescription sleeping pills should not be confused with anti-anxiety medications. These drugs are very effective in treating symptoms of anxiety such as insomnia and anxiousness, but they are not classified as prescription sleeping pills. Some prescription sleeping pills are popular and commonly used, however, taking them for extended periods of time can render them less effective over time, and cause major side effects such as sleepwalking.

Both over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills have side effects, and simply because sleep preparations can be obtained without a prescription, does not automatically make them safe sleeping pills. In fact, sleeping pills of any type can intensify the effects of certain medications, including some heart medications, anti-anxiety medications, and certain analgesics.

Sleeping pills should never be taken will alcoholic beverages, because even safe sleeping pills, in combination with alcohol, can be dangerous. Sleeping pills not only intensify the effects of alcohol, mixing the two can be deadly. If an person accidentally mixes alcohol and sleeping pills, an emergency medical evaluation and intervention is required because a delay in treatment can prove fatal. A gastric lavage, or "stomach pumping" can be done in the emergency room to remove the mixture from the stomach.

Choosing safe sleeping pills can depend on the severity of one's insomnia.
Choosing safe sleeping pills can depend on the severity of one's insomnia.

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Discussion Comments


After my surgery, I spent some time in a rehabilitation facility and I couldn't get to sleep because of the unfamiliar environment. The doctor ordered a sedative injection the first night. He later gave me prescription sleeping pills, but I started hallucinating and feeling very disconnected when I first woke up. I'd tell people now to try non-prescription sleeping pills or relaxation exercises before considering anything prescription strength.

I'd also say the best sleeping pills won't work unless you change other bedtime routines, too. Watch your caffeine intake and stop watching TV or surfing the Internet at least an hour before going to bed. A good sleeping pill will usually kick in about an hour or so after you take it, so don't expect instant drowsiness. If you do have to take something stronger, be sure you have plenty of time to devote to sleep. Waking up at 2am and taking a strong sleeping pill before leaving for work at 7am is never a good idea.


A few years ago, I started experiencing insomnia and it wouldn't go away on its own. I decided to try different over the counter sleeping pills until I found one that worked right for me. At my job, I can't afford to come into work in a groggy state, since I operate a very large and dangerous machine from the minute I clock in.

I started out with natural sleeping pills a health food store employee suggested. They had ingredients like tryptophan, the chemical that makes people sleepy after eating turkey at Thanksgiving. I managed to get a little drowsier just before bedtime, but I didn't get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I then tried sleeping pills with no extra medications. They actually worked pretty well, but sometimes I still felt aches and pains that kept me awake. I finally started taking otc sleeping pills with acetaminophen, and I slept a solid 8 hours with no grogginess.

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