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Any medicine intended to aid sleep is known as a sleeping pill. These pills can help individuals sleep better and lead a healthy life when correctly prescribed and used. At the same time, they also come bearing harmful side effects, especially for people who regularly use them. Abusing sleeping pills also contributes to mental health, physical problems, and the constant risk of an overdose.

While an overdose of a sleeping pill is unlikely if you are closely following a doctor’s instructions, it is still essential to know the combinations and risks that may accidentally harm your health. A similar risk also persists for individuals addicted to these pills, which must seek professional help as soon as possible without risking their lives.

Can you overdose on sleeping pills? How much of these pills is too much, and what happens if you exceed this limit? This article will discuss all crucial aspects of sleeping pills overdose, its consequences, and how to prevent it.

There are different types of sleeping pills, of which a doctor prescribes the most suitable one based on an individual’s current problem and its severity. Some examples of these common sleep aids include:

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed to those suffering from depression as a coexisting disorder and a potential reason for their insomnia.

Benzodiazepines

This sleeping pill persists in the body for a long time; hence, it can be highly addictive. Individuals using benzodiazepines often grow a dependency on them relatively quickly and may develop withdrawal symptoms once they try to quit.

Eszopiclone

Eszopiclone is prescribed to individuals with insomnia to fall asleep faster.

Ramelteon

This type of sleep aid targets the sleep-wake cycle and balances it. Ramelteon is usually associated with a low risk of dependence or abuse.

Zolpidem

Zolpidem enables users to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for a long time. It is usually safe and rarely leads to side effects.

Lemborexant

Lemborexant works by suppressing the working of a specific part of the brain that makes the user fall asleep quickly.

Suvorexant

This sleeping pill works by blocking a hormone that promotes wakefulness. It has been officially approved by the FDA to be used for insomnia.

Taking too many sleeping pills can lead to a potential overdose, with symptoms closely mimicking those of an alcohol overdose. The brain suddenly slows down, directly affecting all voluntary activities of the body. Following this, the involuntary functions, such as heart rate and breathing, start getting targeted. Other symptoms may include:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Inability to think or respond normally
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Increasing coldness of the skin
  • A bluish tinge to the lips, fingers, and skin (cyanosis)
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Slowed respiration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Shock
  • Coma

If you or a loved one has been using sleeping pills for a long time, precautions must be practised to avoid a potential overdose. In this context, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Take sleeping pills only close to bedtime. The primary purpose of these pills is to relax the body and induce sleep. Hence, taking it at any other time can prove to be dangerous.
  • Always ask a doctor for complete information about the sleeping pills you are about to use. It is also important to let your doctor know about any co-existing medical conditions and allergies you have so that no complications can arise.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol as long as you are taking a sleeping pill. Mixing the two can drastically increase the latter’s effects, which may lead to an overdose.
  • Always stick to the amount prescribed by a doctor and never exceed it. Consuming more sleeping pills than recommended can lead to nasty symptoms and may prove fatal if left untreated.
  • Take your sleeping pills only when you are having difficulties with sleep. Using them unnecessarily can lead to addiction or dependence, ultimately increasing the risk of an overdose. Experts advise taking a short break from using sleeping pills after a few days to check if you can go to sleep without them.
  • Keep monitoring yourself for side effects that may arise due to the use of sleeping pills. As soon as you start noticing them, contact a doctor right now.
  • Keep in touch with your doctor and always go for follow-ups. Keep them updated about your current condition and inform them as soon as you feel any improvement in your sleep cycle. This helps stop the unnecessary consumption of sleeping pills at the right time and prevents addictions.

People who have overdosed on sleeping pills get admitted to a hospital where they are closely monitored in an intensive care unit. Surveys suggest that almost one in four people who have overdosed on sleeping pills die, despite the admission. Emergency treatment is commenced at once, which mostly includes the following:

  • A stomach pump
  • Medications to flush the sleeping pills through the urinary tract or bowels
  • Administration of activated charcoal that absorbs the excess sleeping drug
  • Intravenous fluids to stabilise body functions and prevent dehydration
  • A respirator if breathing is compromised
  • Dialysis to purify the blood
  • Medicines to stabilise the parts of the heart
  • Psychiatric care, including a short-term admission for suicide watch

Most people generally recover from a sleeping pill overdose, especially if treatment is sought early on. Unless someone experiences prolonged oxygen deprivation, the effects of an overdose last as long as the sleeping pills remain in the system.

If you or someone you know has been abusing sleeping pills and are at a risk of an overdose, know that help is available to get off this dependency. When seeking treatment for what might be a potential addiction, joining a professional addiction treatment centre can make the process easier. Withdrawal symptoms associated with most sleeping pill addictions are painful and potentially deadly. However, the professionals at rehab can help you deal with them while encouraging long-term recovery.

Some highlights that most sleeping pills addiction treatment centres offer include:

  • Rehab treatment where patients stay at specific on-campus accommodations and seek therapy for their addictive behaviours and related suicidal tendencies
  • Intensive outpatient programmes for patients who still need to fulfil their daily obligations and can only seek therapy for certain hours of the day
  • 12-Step Programmes to help teach patients about a power higher than themselves
  • Family Therapy involves the patient’s family members and re-establish bonds with them
  • Meditation and Yoga for helping patients connect with spirituality as a healing mechanism
  • Group therapy helps patients connect with other people fighting similar issues and get motivated to seek recovery

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