The inability to sleep has officially reached a health epidemic according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we are living in a society weighed down by stress contributing to sleep disorders. Not only is sleep the fuel for life, but it promotes good health while accounting for one-third of our total life.
Sleep is as essential to life as the air we breathe or the food we consume, which is especially true for those with compromised immune systems or chronic disease. With these factors playing such a significant role in our lives, it’s important to note that 50 to 70 million Americans across the country of all socioeconomic backgrounds deal with sleep-related issues annually.
There are many sleep disorders that take shape as medical disorders, and they are related to work schedules that require a 24 hour seven day a week type lifestyle, and 70 percent of these adults admit they cannot achieve the adequate amount of rest at least once a month, and a shocking 11 percent reported insufficient sleep on a regular basis.
A newer contributor to sleep disorders is the emergence of constant access to technology in our society. We have become increasingly drawn to using social media, playing video games, and otherwise ignoring our primal urges to sleep. Unfortunately, technology suppresses melatonin, and you will remain alert long after you’ve put the remote control or phone down.
Others may experience sleep deprivation due to demanding lifestyles or a lack of education about sleep importance. Lack of sleep does more than make you feel a bit sleepy, but it will also affect your relationship time, ability to learn, overall mood, short-term memory, and hand-eye coordination.
All of these factors interfere with routine and contribute to on-the-job accidents, automobile crashes, and multi-modal transportation tragedies.
Sleep deprivation has increased tenfold over the last 30 years, which shouldn’t be too much of a shock based on the current state of technology addiction.
Poor sleep health is a problem for 25 percent of adults in the United States as they report insufficient sleep 15 out of every 30 days. In a media-driven age that requires results and short-term fixes to significant problems, sleeping pills have become a large part of our culture.
Sedative and hypnotic medications, which are commonly referred to as sleep aids, are used to get people to sleep or keep them asleep by suppressing activities in the central nervous system (CNS). These medications are known as Z-drugs, and they were synthesized as an alternative to the more potent benzodiazepines that were often used for sleep disorders.
The highly addictive substances used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders became controversial due to their highly addictive nature. It pushed chemists to synthesize less addictive alternatives, and Z-drugs were brought into existence.
Over the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of prescriptions doctors are writing. From 1998 to 2006, pharmacies reported a tripling in sleep aids in adults 18 to 24. While the drugs were designed to be less addictive, we see an emergence of sleeping pill dependence.
What are the Most Common Sleeping Pills?
The sleeping pill market is significant, and there is no shortage of brand name drugs or their generic counterparts that offer the promise of getting you to sleep fast. These drugs were created as an alternative to treat insomnia without a significant risk of addiction but can become addictive over a period of long-term use. Sleeping pills are rarely prescribed for longer than three weeks because of these addictive traits, but that will not stop someone from using the medication to achieve their desired level of sleep.
The most common sleeping pills are:
Ambien’s active ingredient is Zolpidem, which acts on the brain’s receptors releasing the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). The difference between sleeping pills and benzodiazepines is that drugs like Ambien work on a specific GABA receptor, where benzos will affect a majority of the receptors
Lunesta is also a popular Z-drug containing Eszopiclone, which creates effects that slow down brain functions and cause a user to become relaxed. It is the reason why sleep is induced
The medication is very similar to Ambien, but it contains an active ingredient known as Zaleplon, which causes feelings of drowsiness, numbness, but can cause problems with memory and concentration. In addition to some of its adverse effects, Sonata is also known to cause unusual changes in behavior or mood in those who consume the drug as prescribed
Sleeping Pill Withdrawal Symptoms
Sleeping pill withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, causing psychological and physical discomfort. Like withdrawal to most drugs, the effects are going to vary from one person to another based on factors such as dose. Many factors are influencing these outcomes, such as mental disorders, how much medication was taken at the time of cessation, and how long someone consumed sleep pills.
Common Symptoms of Sleeping Pill Withdrawal Include:
- Rebound Insomnia
- Memory loss
What are the Stages of the Sleeping Pill Withdrawal Timeline?
While it has been established that we respond differently to symptoms of withdrawal, there is still a general timeline that you can refer to as a guide. In the first week, the individual will notice an increase in their anxiety levels. It may not be a symptom they’ve experienced before, but the lack of GABA production will create feelings of anxiety.
Other reactions will be chills and shivering, which by this point, the person may feel an urge to go back to taking the pills. It is suggested the person looks into detox for this stage.
The dose must be reduced gradually and wean off the medicine to allow adaptation to small doses. The effects can last anywhere from one to seven days.
After the first week, muscle cramps will still be present, and other reports indicate that someone can feel as though they’re in a fog. While these are less dangerous symptoms, it depends on the dose of how severe they can become. Someone who took extreme amounts can experience life-threatening seizures.
The symptoms will last anywhere from seven to 10 days, and because of the effect on GABA, addiction specialists strongly advise that you enter into medical detoxification to mitigate the dangers that could present themselves.
Sleeping Pill Withdrawal Treatment
Medical detoxification should be considered instead of the cold-turkey approach. It is not a safe method of abstaining from the drug, nor is it a method that will be sustainable long-term. Since sleeping pill use is rooted in a sleep disorder, residential treatment is not a standard outlet after detox.
Depending on the severity of the sleeping pill addiction, you may able to complete detox on an outpatient basis. If the team determines there is a definitive reason that pushes you to use drugs, they could suggest continuing treatment and attend therapy on an outpatient basis. Sleeping pill withdrawal can be dangerous, and if you are ready to seek a better alternative, we can help.