The Dangers of Sleeping Pills for the Elderly

Sleeping difficulties can be extremely frustrating. It is a horrible feeling to go to bed each night and lay awake for hours on end. One solution that helps many people get to sleep is sleeping pills. These small, often addictive, tablets are packed with medications that will cause you to drift right to sleep and stay asleep. Sleeping pills are convenient, fast, and often easy to obtain. They are an easy way to tackle a sleepless night, and can be extremely safe if taken in small doses for short amounts of time. Many people who get off of their sleeping schedule find that if they take one dosage of a sleeping pill each night for one week, then their internal clock will reset itself and they will not have any issues falling asleep anymore. However, some people do not stop taking the pills after one week and continue for an indefinite amount of time. Sleeping pills can be both physically and psychologically addictive. For people who depend on them to sleep each night, it can become dangerous, especially in elderly populations. Keep reading to find out more about the dangers of sleeping pills for the elderly.


Sleeping Problems and the Elderly

Sleeping problems are very common in the elderly population. Doctors believe that there are many factors that contribute to their sleepiness nights, including age-related sleeplessness, napping throughout the day, pain from chronic illnesses, frequent need to urinate, and even worry or depression. Any of these factors alone or together could greatly disrupt an elderly person’s sleeping patterns and cause them to desire sleeping pills. Ideally, doctors should determine the root cause of the patient’s sleeping disruptions before handing out sleeping pills, but sometimes that does not occur. For example, if patients are not sleeping due to pain from chronic illnesses, then pain management treatments should be employed before sleeping pills. However, due to medical regulations and communication issues between patients and doctors, this ideal situation may not occur. Instead, sleeping pills may be prescribed for short term relief, then for long term relief if the patient’s sleeping schedule does not become regulated.

Dangers of Sleeping Pills

In the short term, sleeping pills are not inherently dangerous. Some in particular may have adverse effects such as nightmares, sleep walking, sleep talking, and sleepiness throughout the day, however in general, short term use of sleeping aids is safe. It is when the short term usage turns into the long term that dangers arise. Long term usage of sleeping tablets can be detrimental to a person’s mental and physical health. Patients may become dependent on the sleeping pills, and may lose the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep on their own. Dependence can occur at any age, but it is especially prevalent in the elderly population. Elderly patients are also at risk for developing different side effects of sleeping pills due to their other medications they may take or alcohol that they may consume. Mixing sleeping pills with alcohol can be very dangerous. Alcohol allows the sleeping pills to travel from the bloodstream, across the blood brain barrier, and into the brain. Overtime, this can cause damage and be detrimental to the patient’s health. Various medications and sleeping pills also do not mix well and could cause adverse effects. Due to this, it is essential to talk with your doctor about all of your medications before starting any type of sleeping pill.

Falls are also another inherent risk of taking sleeping aids. Elderly patients who take sleeping pills regularly and who either sleep walk frequently or wake up frequently to use the restroom are at a greater risk of falling in the middle of the night. Sleeping pills can depress your central nervous system, and affect your balance. If an elderly patient is getting out of bed at night, then they could stumble due to their decreased sense of balance. Another inherent danger of sleeping pills is the overuse of them. Many elderly patients may not remember if they took their pills each day or night, and thus will take an extra pill or two. Overuse of sleeping pills can cause harmful health issues to occur and can be very detrimental.

Preventing the Dangers of Sleeping Pills

The best way to prevent the dangers of sleeping pills is to try and avoid taking them in the first place. Before taking sleeping pills, it is essential that patients try other ways to fall asleep. They should consider lifestyle changes to help them change their sleeping patterns such as not taking naps throughout the day, exercising each day, or not drinking caffeine and eating sugary foods. If lifestyle changes do not help, then taking sleeping pills for a short amount of time could greatly affect their life. Most people who take sleeping pills for one week report being able to sleep better after they are off of the pills.

However, if patients do need to take sleeping pills on a long term basis, then they still can prevent side effects and dangers from occurring. Always follow the doctor’s orders and never take too many pills during one night. Also, to prevent the dangers of sleeping pills, do not mix them with alcohol. It is also a good idea to not drink large amounts of liquid before you fall asleep in order to prevent the need to get up in the middle of the night.

Sleeping pills are a great and easy way to fall asleep fast and stay asleep. For people who suffer from sleepless nights, they often seem like a miracle. If you or someone you love has suffered from sleep disturbances, then talk with a doctor. Often, a few days’ worth or a week’s worth of sleeping pills can be prescribed in order to get their sleep back on track. Follow these guidelines, and always remember to take the pills how they are supposed to be taken. Do not take too many pills or mix them with other medications or alcohol. Abusing sleeping pills can be incredibly dangerous and lead to health scares that are completely preventable.

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