It’s recommended to stop long-term use of sleeping pills when the original reason for insomnia has gone off and we can assume that insomnia stems from sleeping pills or sleeping pills don’t help any longer. It’s advised to stop using sleeping aid always when there’s motivation to do so.
For various reasons, some people have become used to taking a benzodiazepine or Z-drug sleeping tablet every night. In this case you should consider reducing or stopping them. However, problems of tolerance or dependence mean that it can be difficult for some people to stop the tablet suddenly. Always discuss with your doctor when you consider decreasing/stopping use of sleeping pills and follow the instructions carefully.
Some people can stop taking benzodiazepines and Z-drugs without any difficulty or symptoms. However, the withdrawal effects are too severe to cope for many people especially if the medicine is stopped suddenly. It is often advised to reduce the dose gradually over several months as this keeps withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.
A common plan is to switch from whatever benzodiazepine tablet or Z-drug to diazepam. Your doctor will make a plan how to reduce the dose gradually. Normally you would reduce the dose by a small amount every 1-2 weeks. The amount the dose is reduced at each step may vary, depending on how large a dose you are taking to start with.
Sometimes other medication may be prescribed to help you cope with symptoms while you are coming off benzodiazepines. For example, antidepressants can help if depression emerges whilst on a withdrawal program, or beta-blockers there’s a need help to control anxiety.
If you want to reduce or stop benzodiazepine or Z-drug sleeping tablets, the advice typically includes following points:
- Do it gradually, and cut the dose down a little at a time. A switch to a different benzodiazepine (diazepam) may be advised. This is because it is easier to gradually reduce the dose of diazepam than with other benzodiazepines or Z-drugs.
- It is best to wait until any life crisis has passed, and your level of stress is low and you feel mentally stronger and better.
- Consider stopping the tablets whilst on (longer) holiday, when you have less pressure from work, family and daily routines.
- Prepare yourself to period of worse sleep as you are likely to have it when you stop the sleep aid. Try to accept it and pay special attention to good sleep hygiene.
- Test natural ways to improve your sleep pattern.
When you consider stop taking sleeping pills check these support groups: