Written By Holly Klamer / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
There are lots of reasons why people take sedatives and sleeping pills. Death or serious illness or the breakup of a relationship can all cause stress, anxiety, and the inability to sleep properly.
A disorder such as insomnia, depression or PTSD can also interfere with someone’s ability to sleep and cause them to turn to benzodiazepines. These are medications that contain zolpidem or zopiclone and they are some of the most commonly prescribed treatments for sleeplessness.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to become dependent on these drugs and then have to seek help to stop taking them. So this article takes a look at the best way to get off benzodiazepines and the treatment and support that’s available.
The pros and cons of sleeping pills
Benzodiazepines - known as Z-drugs - can be highly beneficial when used in the short term. They are excellent for relaxing muscles, relieving cramps, reducing feelings of anxiety, and helping people to go to sleep and then to sleep soundly once they do.
Unfortunately, sleeping pills and sedatives such as benzodiazepines can also have some unwanted side effects. These can include memory and concentration problems, drowsiness, muscle weakness, and sleep disorders. But possibly the worst side effect of all can be dependence, which is common if these drugs are taken for too long or in too high a dose.
This mental and physical dependence can occur within just a few weeks, so it’s important to take them as low dosage for as short a time as possible, or ideally, avoid such medications altogether and seek more natural ways of dealing with an inability to sleep. From smart tech and apps and avoiding technology before bed, to zero gravity massage chairs and perfecting your sleep environment.
How to stop
There are several stages involved in beating a dependence on sedatives or sleeping pills. And the first is to admit to yourself that you have a dependence. You need to realize that you’ve become used to taking these drugs and that this is not normal or desirable behavior.
Common signs of dependence can include taking a pill every time you want to fall asleep, feeling less affected by the same dose over time, upping the dosage without talking to your doctor first, and seeing more than one doctor for prescription refills.
Once you’ve acknowledged your dependence, you then need to discuss the problem with your doctor. The most likely form of treatment they would then recommend for you would be a gradual reduction in dosage, with or without a substitute medication such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants. The aim of this is to slowly taper down your usage while trying to keep withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.
Dealing with withdrawals
Withdrawals often occur when usage is stopped too suddenly and symptoms can include restlessness, anxiety, circulation problems, and, ironically, trouble sleeping. In these circumstances, people often return to taking their sleeping pills and sedatives to gain relief from these symptoms.
So to avoid such relapses, the dose is reduced gradually over a period of several weeks until it is eventually stopped altogether. There might then be a few months of outpatient follow-up if any withdrawal symptoms are experienced.
What is CBT?
This process of tapering is thought to be made easier for participants when it’s backed up by some form of psychological or therapeutic support. And one of the most successful approaches is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
CBT is a treatment that has proved effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse. It is based on a belief that psychological problems are due to unhelpful thinking and learned patterns of unhelpful behavior and that people can learn better ways of coping with their problems.
Developing a dependency on sedatives or sleeping pills is not a rare occurrence by any means and certainly not the end of the world if it happens to you. Withdrawal is quite possible and even relatively simple, once you recognize there’s a problem and resolve to do something about it.
So if you feel like you’re no longer in control of your medication use, why not have a talk with your doctor and see what they can suggest. If they’re up to date with the latest medical thinking, they’re likely to recommend treatments similar to those described here. You can also check out our range of body oils which will help you relax after a hot bath.
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Holly Klamer is a pet lover who owns a dog and loves to write about everything related to pets. She is a frequent writer and contributor to top online pet publications and blogs, including Faith Based Assisted Living and Pet Friendly Senior Living.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.