Do Sleeping Pills Work?

The placebo effect may be about half the reason why sleeping pills are effective, according to research. A joint US-UK sleep study carried out by researchers from several universities including Harvard Medical School, and published in The British Medical Journal tested the effectiveness of sleeping pills in participants with insomnia, or prolonged trouble sleeping. The study compared the results of sleeping pills to placebo pills containing no active ingredients and found that participants who received the placebo pills were nearly half as likely to fall asleep as those who took the sleeping pills. Researchers concluded that the benefits of sleeping pills may be largely from the placebo effect, an outcome in which participants who have unknowingly taken placebo pills still perceive improvements in their conditions.

More facts about sleeping pill research findings:

  • Sleeping pills can cause serious side effects, such as memory loss, decreased motor skills, drastic changes in mood, and addiction.
  • People with low-incomes or those who have jobs requiring frequent shift changes, night shifts, or repeated long-distance traveling across time zones tend to be more likely to have long-term insomnia and require treatment.
  • The placebo effect can cause perceptions of negative side effects, not just improvements, and is thought to be the result of participants’ preconceived expectations of treatment.
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Discussion Comments


It depends on the condition they are being used for and the type used. I have chronic fatigue syndrome. One of the effects I suffer from is I can't get into a deep sleep. I have to take amitriptylene so that I go into a deeper sleep and don't wake up all the time. For my condition, it works.

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