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.

Top 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

Sleep is important to health and well-being. Sleep health is vital to good health. A lack of sleep affects mood, concentration, memory, weight, driving skills, and quality of life. Medical sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (apnea), insomnia, snoring, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep is a major cause of lost productivity and accidents in the workplace, road and at home. Good sleep habits. Sleep is one of the pillars of good health.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, commonly known as minor tranquillisers and sleeping pills, are prescribed mainly for problems relating to anxiety and sleep.

Read more on beyondblue website

Insomnia

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

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

Idiopathic Hypersomnia

Idiopathis Hypersomnia

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Sleeping | enableme - stroke recovery and support

After a stroke, you may experience changes related to sleep. Getting a decent nights sleep is an important part of stroke recovery

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Ten Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep is important to health and well-being. Sleep health is vital to good health. A lack of sleep affects mood, concentration, memory, weight, driving skills, and quality of life. Medical sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (apnea), insomnia, snoring, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep is a major cause of lost productivity and accidents in the workplace, road and at home. Sleep is one of the pillars of good health. A good night Sleep.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Older People and Sleeping

Important things about aging and sleep. Sleep is important to health and well-being. Sleep health is vital to good health. A lack of sleep affects mood, concentration, memory, weight, driving skills and quality of life. Medical sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (apnea), insomnia, snoring, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep is a mojor cause of lost productivity and accidents in the workplace, road and at home. Sleep is one of the pillars of good health.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Shiftwork

Important things about Shiftwork and sleep. Sleep is important to health and well-being. Sleep health is vital to good health. A lack of sleep affects mood, concentration, memory, weight, driving skills, and quality of life. Medical sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (apnea), insomnia, snoring, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep is a major cause of lost productivity and accidents in the workplace, road and at home. Sleep is one of the pillars of good health.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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