Sleeping Pills: Right Ways and Wrong Ways to Use Them

Collop, Bruno, and Yurcheshen praise Kripke for raising the issue of sleeping pill harm.

"One part of the Kripke study I really did like is when they point out that part of the problem with hypnotics is they are really best for people with acute, short episodes of insomnia," Yurcheshen says. "Very few insomnia drugs are approved for long-term daily use. And so it is fair to say that the long-term safety of these drugs has never been explored for use in that way."

Collop says she personally is "torn whether hypnotics are good or bad." She notes that it can be harmful to be dependent on hypnotic sleeping pills for a long period of time. They can help a person who is having a hard time falling asleep for some specific reason.

"These sleeping pills are mostly for short-term use," she says. "So the ideal patient would be someone with a very high stress level for some reason, such as the recent loss of loved one or a divorce, or for a traveler adjusting to a new time zone. This should be for a limited time period and only as needed, not on a nightly basis. In such situations these drugs are appropriate and effective."

Bruno notes that hypnotic sleeping pills affect the quality of sleep. When used too often, he says, "people don't feel as restored after sleeping with them."

He also points out that many hypnotic sleeping pills are habit forming. "For those at risk of addiction, or with other addictions, they can be dangerous," he says. "And most of these drugs increase the effects of alcohol."


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