5 Steps to a Good Night's Sleep
Are Sleeping Pills Safe?
For the more than 44 million Americans who take a prescription to drift off, they seem like miracle drugs. But the FDA recently added warning labels to 13 prescription sleep medications, including top sellers Ambien and Lunesta, after reports that the drugs cause some people to binge eat, sleepwalk, or even sleep drive. Investigators aren't sure how common these wacky-but-dangerous side effects are, or whom they're most likely to affect, but they are rare, says Dr. Epstein, who notes that the odds increase if you mix sleep drugs with alcohol. The risk of dependency also rises when the drugs aren't taken as directed (if you rely on them nightly, for example, instead of just occasionally).
"When used as prescribed, these medications are very safe, and can be very helpful for people who need to get through a particularly rough time," sums up Dr. Epstein. But if you have trouble sleeping without pills, or you wake up next to a suspiciously empty bag of Tostitos, quit the drug immediately and call your doctor.
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