side effect warning for popular sleeping pill

US Government side effect warning for popular sleeping pill


Zolpidem (sold in Brazil as Stilnox and other brands) is the most popular sleeping pill worldwide. It has been available for a couple decades, and works well for most people. However, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA, USA) just issued a new side effect warning that we should all be aware of.

The advisement is called a “black box warning”, which is the strongest warning the FDA issues. The concern is that (while rare), some people have exhibited strange behaviors after taking the medication. The behavior can occur during the night or the next day, when the person believes the medication has worn off.

Sleeping pill side effects

Sleepwalking or eating during the middle of the night (without remembering the next day) are the most common worrisome side effects. Even more disturbing—that have caused serious injuries—include burns, loss of limbs due to extreme cold exposure, and self-inflicted gunshot woods.

A total of 20 deaths in the US have been reported from this medication. They resulted from driving while under the influence of the medication (at night or the next day when the person thinks the drug has worn off). Frighteningly, some people have driven a car during the night and have no memory the next day. Beside car crashes, other deaths have resulted from fatal falls, drowning, carbon monoxide poisoning, and gunshots.

These side effects are rare

This post is not to scare you if you occasionally take sleeping pills, because these side effects are rare.But you should be aware of their possibility, both in yourself or others in your family who might be taking sleeping pills.

Other medications

The FDA warning included the less common sleeping pills eszopiclone and zaleplon, which are similar to zolpidem. They can be bought by brand or generically. Also note that some people use antihistamines—such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl and others)—to make them sleepy. These can be bought without a prescription, and the main risk here is not strange behaviors, but still being sleepy the next morning, then driving.

Lower doses recommended

As we mentioned in a previous post, if you take sleeping pills, you should take the lowest possible dose that is effective for you. While zolpidem usually comes in a 10 mg. pill, it is recommended that most people should take a 5 mg or even 2.5 mg. dose. Some people split the 10 mg pill into smaller doses or even “bite off” a small part of the pill (unused pills should be kept in a dry container).

Recommendations for women

Women metabolize the drug more slowly, so especially women are sensitive to the side effects and should use a lower dose. Also older people are more sensitive, as well as people with liver problems. They should never be mixed with alcohol.

Can be addictive

Besides side effects, all these medications can be addictive. Sleep experts advise trying other measures, such as turning off digital screens before bedtime, before resorting to sleeping pills.

Think twice before taking any medication for sleep, and if you take any of these pills and have noted unusual side effects, stop the medication and talk to your doctor. These side effects can occur after the first dose or after taking the medication for a long time (not recommended). Sleeping medications should be used with caution!

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website:

See also in ProcuraMed:

Some side effects of the most common sleeping pill prescribed

How the wrong light can ruin falling asleep

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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