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Sleeping pills are a class of  sedatives which act on the central nervous system and help a person fall asleep quickly. Generally doctors will try to treat the underlying problem causing insomnia before prescribing sleeping pills. This is because sleeping pills have adverse side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, lack of co-ordination and diarrhea.

Many people are given sleeping pills for the first time in hospitals. Ideally, sleeplessness can be treated by cognitive behavior therapy. However, sleeping pills may prescribed for a short time in case of  a serious illness or death of  a close relative or friend. In such cases, sleeping pills are prescribed for a period of  one week and a maximum period of  3 weeks. Also they should not be taken daily.

Long term usage of  sleeping pills is to be avoided, since they can be addictive. Also larger doses of sleeping pills are required over a period of time to be effective. Even if  a patient is prescribed a sleeping pill, a patient has the right to take an informed decision and consider all the side effects.  Taking  sleeping pills is dangerous when a patient is suffering from medical problems such as sleep apnea.

Ambien (manufactured by Sanofi - Aventis), Sonata (from King Pharmaceuticals) and Lunesta (from Sepracor) are the top selling sleeping pills in USA. There were more than 26.5 million prescriptions for Ambien (Zolpidem Tartarate) in 2005 but a number of Ambien users have been involved in traffic accidents. Taking Ambien sleeping pills after having alcoholic drinks and wine is particularly dangerous and has caused sleepwalking. A person taking Ambien usually falls asleep within 30 minutes and sleeps soundly throughout the night.

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