Can You Get Addicted to Sleeping Pills?

And the possible side effects you should watch out for.

Can You Get Addicted to Sleeping Pills?

Many people have been turning to sleeping pills to help relieve their pandemic insomnia. Since the beginning of the pandemic, prescriptions for sleeping medications went up about 15%. Are these pills safe for you and could you become addicted to them?

It's important to know how they work with your body, which is what makes each sleeping aid different.

"There are different classes of sleep medications with ... different ways they affect the body. Some are anti-anxiety drugs that make you feel drowsy or sedated by slowing activity of the brain and central nervous system. Others target the same brain receptors more selectively, which is thought to reduce some of the side effects. And the newest kind affects brain chemicals that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Not everyone is a candidate for sleeping pills," said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, who has studied the effects of sleeping pills.

She added that some pills "may have a risk of abuse and the medication needs to be monitored, so talking to your doctor is really important."

When you look at studies of people who take sleeping pills, those people only fell asleep about 13 minutes sooner and stayed asleep about 15 minutes longer than those who took placebo pills.

Meanwhile, these medications can leave you with significant side effects, like drowsiness when you wake up that could even last throughout the day.

"Depending on the type of sleeping pills some common side effects include dizziness, headaches, G.I. symptoms like diarrhea and nausea. There are even some reports of hallucinations and sleep-related behaviors like driving or eating when not fully awake," Caudle added.

If you and your doctor decide that sleeping pills are right for you, remember these Dos and Don'ts:

  • DO use them for short-term sleeping problems or jet lag.
  • DO tell your doctor about any other medications you take.
  • DON'T take sleeping pills for more than two weeks.
  • DON'T take an extra dose if you wake up in the middle of the night, unless directed.

For more sleeping tips and advice, visit Dr. Oz's Sleep hub.

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

Keep Reading Show less