Sleeping Pills Overdose – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

From Zzz to SOS, the unsettling reality of sleeping pill overdose has affected many over the years. A news update published on World Sleep Day, showed that nearly 55% of the Indian population has poor sleep quality. It could range anywhere from restlessness, multiple pee breaks or simple insomnia; sleeping issues are omnipresent. The obvious result—resorting to sleeping tablets. These meds have a hidden hazard lurking beneath the surface: the possibility of sleeping pills overdose. Stay with us as we go over the intricacies of sleeping pill overdoses.


What Are Sleeping Pills?


Sleeping pills, often known as hypnotics or sleep aids, are medicines that induce sleep. These drugs vary in composition and can be grouped. It is crucial to note that the exact medicinal compounds of sleeping tablets may differ between brands and types. 

Some of the common varieties include:


  • Benzodiazepines:


These pills, like Diazepam or Lorazepam, calm the brain by enhancing a chemical called GABA.


  • Non-Benzodiazepine Hypnotics (Z-Drugs):


Examples include Zolpidem. These also work on GABA, helping you feel calm and sleepy.


  • Melatonin Receptor Agonists:


Pills like Ramelteon act like the hormone melatonin, which helps control your sleep-wake cycle.


  • Antihistamines:


Some over-the-counter pills contain antihistamines like diphenhydramine, which makes you feel drowsy.


  • Selective Melatonin Receptor Agonists:


Medications like Tasimelteon target specific melatonin receptors to regulate your sleep patterns.


  • Barbiturates (Rarely Prescribed for Sleep):


Phenobarbital is an example. These pills make you sleepy but aren’t commonly used for sleep due to potential risks.


How do sleeping medications work?


Most types of sleeping drugs, regardless of type, function by affecting brain chemicals to provide a relaxing effect. Whether it’s increasing GABA activity, imitating melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone), or suppressing wakefulness signals, the common goal is to promote sleep-friendly feelings. Individual responses may differ; hence, you must only have prescribed sleeping pills. 


Long-Term Side Effects Of Sleeping Pills


Sleeping tablets are usually prescribed for a stipulated period. Having more of them for a longer duration causes unnecessary dependency. The long-term effects of sleeping meds can vary depending on which pill you take, your dose and your body’s response.


Here is a quick breakdown of the long-term use of sleeping pills.


  • Tolerance: With time, your body gets accustomed to the effects of the particular sleeping med, and will demand a higher dosage to produce the same effects. Eventually, this causes dependency on the drug for sleeping.


  • Dependency and Addiction: Regular use of certain sleeping pills, especially those in the benzodiazepine class, gets you hooked on the drug. You are too dependent on it to fall asleep. This is also a type of addiction and may get worse.


  • Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged use of sleeping pills, especially in senior citizens can diminish your cognitive senses and increase the risk of dementia.


  • Drowsiness and Lack of Energy All-day Long: The lingering drowsiness, impaired cognitive function and poor performance during the day often happen for many. This may cause accidents, especially when driving or using a machine.


  • Changes in your sleep patterns: Dependency and addictions ruin your body’s ability to sleep. The natural sleep cycle gets altered, potentially affecting the quality of sleep.


Stopping certain sleeping pills abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as rebound insomnia, anxiety, and irritability.


What Are The Symptoms Of Sleeping Pill Overdose?


What happens when you overdose on sleeping pills? The situation is quite similar to the effects of alcohol consumption. The brain and body functions slow down and incapacitate you.


The initial symptoms are:


  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepwalk
  • Nauseousness or vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory lapses

With time, the symptoms may become severe:


  • Slow breathing
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Bluish discoloration of the lips, fingers, and skin (cyanosis)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Episodes of fainting
  • Impaired ability to think or respond normally
  • Cold skin, hands and feet
  • Slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Shock
  • Coma


It’s best to know how many sleeping tablets are harmful. Taking more than 600 mg of sleeping pills can result in a drug overdose. Overdosing can result in a variety of health concerns.


Can sleeping pills cause death risk?


Yes, misusing or taking too many sleeping pills can be dangerous and even lead to death. Taking more than 2000mg of the medicine in a single dose can be lethal. 


To avoid serious health risks, take it exactly as prescribed by a doctor. If there have been any cases of probable sleeping pill overdose in the family, seek medical help right away.


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