Sleeping Tablets

CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT SLEEPING TABLETS?

In a Nutshell

Visit the fantastic website www.benzo.org.uk for some of the best advice available on Getting Off Sleeping Tablets… Professor C. Heather Ashton has all the information you’ll probably need.  The process is not to be rushed or taken lightly.


TABLETS USED FOR SLEEPING:

  • Benzodiazepines.  The most common type of sleeping tablet, and are available on prescription.  They include temazepam, flunitrazepam, flurazepam, lormetazepam, nitrazepam etc.
  • Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics/sedatives.  Similar tablets to the above group that work on the same receptors in the brain, but not strictly speaking benzodiazepines.  They are hepatically metabolised.  They have shorter half lives than most benzodiazepine hypnotics and may result in less morning drowsiness.  They include zaleplon, zolpidem and zopiclone.  Available on prescription.
  • Antidepressants. Agents with a marked sedative effect, e.g. amitriptyline, doxepin,  trimipramine and mirtazapine have been used when insomnia is attributed to depression.
  • Antihistamines.  Drowsiness is a side effect of antihistamines which are normally used for allergies.  They are therefore useful for some insomniacs.  They do not have problems of tolerance and addiction, but they can cause drowsiness and a hang-over effect in the morning.? You do not require a prescription for some antihistamines.
  • Other medicines.  Occasionally other tablets (e.g. chlormethiazole, choloral and barbiturates) are used to help with sleeping problems.

How to find more information, brand names etc?

To access more information about the different drugs, enter the drug name to the end of the wikipedia encyclopedia string – as shown in the example link below for temazepam  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/temazepam.  These enquiries will list information about each of the drug names, brand names, indications etc.

Sleeping tablets have the potential to:

  • Be Addictive.  Some people become dependant on certain sleeping tablets.  In those cases withdrawal symptoms are experienced when they are stopped.  Withdrawal symptoms can include rebound poor sleep, anxiety, shaking, feeling awful and panic.  Help should be obtained before starting to withdraw from sleeping tablets.  For benzodiazepines a very helpful site, by Professor C. Heather Ashton at the University of Newcastle in the UK is www.benzo.org.uk.
  • Be Less Effective Over Time.  With some tablets you can become tolerant, and require continually higher dosages in order to get the desired effect. With every addictive substance this is a factor.   It takes between 3-14 days of continued use to become “tolerant” to a benzodiazepine sleeping tablet.  Be aware of this.
  • Cause Drowsiness the next day.  You may be dysfunctional at work, driving, operating machinery etc.
  • Impair Middle of the Night Activities. Those who get up in the middle of the night (e.g. to go to the bathroom) may be drowsy, clumsy and confused.  Older people may be particularly at risk of falling over, breaking bones etc.  Additional care is required.
  • Add to Stress Levels.  The use of sleeping tablets to solve a problem can often become part of a bigger problem.  Users often express the desire to get off sleeping tablets to just be normal again.

If you are addicted and you want to reduce or stop sleeping tablets:

  • Get informed about the process.   A very helpful site for benzodiazepines is www.benzo.org.uk. Specifically How they Work and How to Withdraw at www.benzo.org.uk/manual/bzcha02.html. We would suggest you visit this site before seeing your doctor, so that you can maximise the benefits of your consultation. This site also has information about dealing with withdrawal when you are also taking anti-depressants.
  • Work with your doctor.
  • Do it very gradually.
  • Pick a conducive time (such as during your holiday).
  • Be patient with yourself.