How to Stop Taking Sleeping Pills and Stay Sane

This article was originally written by Wendy Owen

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Over a million people worldwide rely on some form of prescription sleep medication. Many of these could sleep well or better without it. The trouble is these drugs are so habit forming, they don’t know how to stop taking them. They can’t get off the merry-go-round.
The thing that keeps us taking these drugs is fear. Fear of withdrawal, fear of never having a good night’s sleep again.
Indeed there will be some withdrawal when you stop taking prescribed sleep medication. This is called “Drug Withdrawal Insomnia”.
If you are an occasional user of sleeping pills, you will be able to achieve this quite easily. For those who depend on medication every night, expect a certain amount of discomfort especially at the beginning.
I would recommend any heavily addicted sleep medication user to consult their doctor while coming off the drug. Also it’s important to do this GRADUALLY. Suddenly stopping any medication isn’t recommended and may cause physical or emotional problems.
What to expect
You may have trouble sleeping for about 1 to 3 weeks, very rarely this may last longer. You may be pleasantly surprised if you have no rebound insomnia, however be prepared for it and know how to deal with it.
Just be patient and know that it is temporary. Your sleep will improve after this stage. Don’t lie awake worrying about how tired you are going to feel the next day. At least you won’t have the “hung over” feeling that sleeping pills gave you.
You may find you are dreaming more. This is because your REM sleep has been suppressed over time and your body is now compensating for this. This will lessen over time.
You may experience some physical symptoms of drug withdrawal such as anxiety, shaky hands, muscle tension and dizziness. Just accept that these will pass and don’t be alarmed.
There’s no need to throw away your sleep medication when you’ve decided to stop taking it. Just keep it in the bedroom as an “insurance policy”. That will stop any feelings of panic when you are having a bad night. Tell yourself, “I’ll take if I need it”. This may be enough to help you relax and sleep without taking it.
Keep a sleep diary. If possible start this before cutting down on your medication. You should gradually notice an improvement in your sleep as the weeks progress. This will help to build confidence in your ability to fall asleep on your own.
While going through this withdrawal, don’t forget to practice good sleep habits as follows:
No caffeine after lunch
Wind down gradually before bed
No TV in the bedroom
Read in bed only if this helps you sleep
Practice relaxation exercises.
Above all persevere and look forward to healthy sleep without drugs.
Copyright 2006 Wendy Owen