Sleeping Pill Safety Tips: OTC and Prescription Aids, Dosages, and MoreSleeping Pill Safety Tips: OTC and Prescription Aids, Dosages, and More


It’s 3 a.m. and you’re staring at the green glow of your digital clock, wondering if you’ll get any shut-Rozerem, a depression. Treating insomnia without a thorough exam can mask an underlying problem that requires care.

Be sure to tell your doctor about all health conditions and all drugs that you’re using, including prescription, over-the-counter, and complementary medicines. If your doctor prescribes sleeping pills, they need to ensure that they won’t interact with other drugs or worsen any medical problems.

Before you use any sleep aids or drugs, read all instructions and package inserts carefully to understand safe use and to learn about possible side effects.

2. Do time your medications properly before bedtime and plan for a full night’s sleep.

Make sure that you’ve scheduled enough time for a full night’s sleep, typically seven to eight hours for most people. If you take a sleep drug and wake up after only a few hours, you may still feel groggy.

Timing is key, Sateia says. “If someone has a sleep onset problem, they probably [should] take these medications perhaps 20-30 minutes before brain has gone home for the day.”

4. Do report side effects to your doctor.

If you struggle with feeling sleepy, groggy, or dizzy during the day, ask your doctor if you need to change your dosage or taper off a sleep drug. Tell your physician about other problems, too. Prescription sleeping pills can cause side effects, including jet lag, illness, or other temporary problems.

In contrast, some patients use the drugs for chronic insomnia that can last for months or even years. These patients may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, Sateia says. With such treatment, a trained sleep therapist uses many techniques, including ones to help people control negative thoughts and worries that keep them awake.

Lifestyle changes may also improve sleep for people with insomnia. Some sample measures: establishing a regular sleep pattern, avoiding daytime napping, and shunning depression. They may need to treat these issues before they can sleep better.

10. Don’t stop taking a sleep medication unless you consult your doctor first.

If you’ve been taking prescription sleep drugs for an extended period, don’t stop abruptly, in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, muscle cramps.

Not everyone experiences withdrawal symptoms — it depends, in part, on what type of drug you’ve been taking, how often, and for how long. But instead of taking matters into your own hands, ask your doctor whether you need to taper off the drug and how to do so.

That can be done in two ways, Sateia says. First, you can gradually reduce the frequency. If you take the drug nightly, you can pick one night of the week to skip it. When you’ve acclimated, then you can skip two nights and eventually wean off.

Or you can still take the drug nightly, but gradually reduce the dosage, Sateia says. But again, check with your doctor first.