A large number of people complain about different sleep disorders such as insomnia. Sleep disturbances usually occur because of excessive stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological problems.
Sleeping pills are sedative-hypnotics and they play an extremely beneficial role in inducing and maintaining sleep. The two main types of these medicines are benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates
Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax, Librium, and Ativan increase drowsiness, which leads to sleep. These drugs decrease the re-uptake of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. This leads to increased concentration of GABA in the synaptic cleft which induces sleep. However, benzodiazepines can cause dependency and tolerance problems, hence, they are only recommended for short-term use.
Barbiturates in comparison, act as major depressants, which leads to increased drowsiness and sedation. In addition to sedatives, these drugs are also being used as analgesics and for anesthetics.
Sedatives can lead to shallow and slow breathing. Hence, they are usually contraindicated in people with respiratory disorders which include asthma and COPD i.e. Chronic. Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Common side effects of these drugs include:Tingling or burning sensation in the arms, hands, legs, or feetAnorexia nervosa i.e. loss of appetiteGastrointestinal disorders including nausea, vomiting, and constipationDisorientation and dizziness in the daytimeDry mouth and throatHeartburn and excessive GI acidityProlonged headacheVivid nightmaresMuscular weakness and lethargySedatives can also cause other serious side effects such as parasomnia. Parasomnia is abnormal sleep behaviour and activities which are not in a person’s conscious control. These behaviours include; sleepwalking, sleep eating, sleep-conversations, and even sleep-driving. Parasomnia is a rare side effect and it’s usually experienced in cases of drug toxicity or overdose.
Some people might be allergic to different sedative-hypnotics. You should discontinue the medication and consult a doctor if you experience any of the following allergic reactions:Blurred vision or double visionShallow and quick breathingFeeling of chokingHoarseness and hivesTachycardia i.e. increased heartbeatSkin rashesSwelling of the face, eyes, tongue, lips or throatExcessive vomitingAnother serious and potentially lethal allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. It’s a life-threatening reaction marked by instant hypotension i.e. low blood pressure, hives, swelling, and excessively dilated blood vessels. It can induce shock which can lead to coma and death.
Effects of Alcohol and Grapefruit Juice
You should not take alcohol with sedatives. This is because alcohol increases the absorption of drugs like Diazepam.
Grapefruit juice has similar effects as it increases the retention of these drugs in the bloodstream, leading to increased blood concentration. Hence, it must be avoided.