If taken long term, one can get addicted to the sleeping pills, i.e. be unable to sleep without them.
Q: How do sleeping pills work? Is it true that even though you fall asleep by taking the pills, you are not actually going through all the 'normal' cycles of sleep when you do so? e.g. Stage 1, Stage 2, REM sleep, etc.
What are the consequences of taking sleeping pills over a long period of time (i.e. months)?
A: Sleeping pills artificially reduce alertness biochemically, and the commonly prescribed ones do interfere with the normal cycles of sleep. This group of drugs known as the benzodiazepines actually suppress deep sleep.
If taken long term, one can get addicted to them, i.e. be unable to sleep without sleeping pills.
Over time, one also can develop what is known as "tolerance", which means that the body gets accustomed to the sleeping medication, and increasingly higher doses of the same drug are needed to achieve the same effect.
This leads to a vicious spiral of drug dependence with ever decreasing effectiveness.
For these reasons (besides many other serious potential complications which are associated with sleeping pill abuse), sleeping pills are not recommended routinely for long periods of time, and must be strictly supervised and prescribed by a physician.
The above information was provided by Dr Lim Li Ling, President of Singapore Sleep Society and Medical Director of the Singapore Neurology & Sleep Centre.