Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Safe use of sleeping pills

2-minute read

Sleeping pills are medicines designed to help you fall asleep or stay asleep, such as in the treatment of insomnia. Sleeping pills can have serious side effects, so if you are having sleep problems it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.

Sleeping pills types

Some sleeping pills are prescription medicines while others can be purchased over the counter. Others use herbal remedies.

Benzodiazepines are the most common type of prescription sleeping pills. Examples are temazepam, diazepam, mogadon, normison and serepax. Zopiclone and stilnox are also prescription sleeping pills.

Some medicines not specifically designed as sleeping pills can also make you drowsy. They include antihistamines, which are available over the counter, and some prescription medicines for mental illnesses.

Some people use herbal remedies like kava and valerian. Research has not shown that they work.

What are the risks of taking sleeping pills?

The main risk of sleeping pills is that you become dependent on them. This means they become less effective, you can't sleep well without them, and feel unwell when you try to stop.

Sleeping pills can also make you unsteady, dizzy and forgetful. They can make it hard for you to concentrate. You might feel groggy or tired next day. These side effects may increase your risk of having accidents and falls, especially in older patients.

How to use sleeping pills safely

Always speak to a doctor or pharmacist if you are having trouble sleeping.

If you have been prescribed sleeping pills, here are some tips on using them safely:

  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you can take your sleeping pills with your other prescription and non-prescription medicines.
  • Take the pills as prescribed.
  • Aim to use them for as short a period as possible, preferably no more than 1 to 2 weeks, then get off them.
  • Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist how to stop safely.
  • Don’t mix sleeping pills with alcohol.
  • Don’t take someone else’s sleeping pills or share yours with anybody.

Sleeping well without medicines

There are plenty of ways to improve your sleep without medicines. Learn more about healthy sleep habits.

Last reviewed: December 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 6 results

Benzodiazepines (tranquillisers and sleeping pills)

Benzodiazepines are a class of drug commonly known as tranquillisers and sleeping pills. In Australia, benzodiazepines are available only with a prescription and are prescribed mainly for problems relating to anxiety and sleep.

Read more on beyondblue website

Good Sleep Habits

There are many things that can be done to improve sleep. Here are some guidelines for what you should and should not do for a good night's sleep. Many people have trouble with their sleep. If you are one of them, some of these simple things may help.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Sleeping pills and older people: the risks

Difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, or having sleep that is not refreshing tends to occur more commonly as people age. Find out more.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Insomnia

Insomnia is said to be present when you regularly find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. It has several patterns.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Depression and Sleep - OnTrack

OnTrack offers online psychology services such as free online treatment programs, information and facts about mental and physical health, information and advice on where to get help and access to quizzes with immediate feedback.

Read more on OnTrack website

Halcion Tablets - myDr.com.au

Halcion Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback