Hypnotics or sleeping pills are psychotropic drugs that act specifically on brain activity, whether they are synthetic substances or plants such as valerian or lemon balm. 


The most common hypnotics are benzodiazepines, also prescribed as anxiolytics. The drawback is that they disrupt the architecture of deep slow-wave sleep, reducing REM sleep and their sedative effect persists throughout the day. At normal doses, concentration and memory may be affected (memory lapses) a few hours after ingestion. Other side effects may include confusional states, anxiety attacks and balance disorders.

After 2 weeks of use, becomes addictive, and physical and/or psychological dependence sets in after 2 to 4 weeks.

Other types of sleeping pills

There areother synthetic molecules, less widely used, which are much less disruptive of sleep architecture. Their chemical composition is different from "benzo", but the mechanism of action remains the same. These drugs also have undesirable side effects, including psychiatric disorders of varying severity. In addition, drug interactions are more difficult to manage.

The plants


As well as synthetic molecules, there are herbal medicines which use extracts of valerian, lime blossom, passionflower or lemon balm, and are just as effective as normal doses of "benzo", with virtually no side-effects. These plants are often combined with hawthorn (crataegus), which has an effect on heart palpitations. You'll either find them in speciality medicines, or your doctor can prescribe them in magistral preparations (preparations made by pharmacists in their pharmacies). Apart from a possible slight drowsiness in the morning, these drugs have no adverse effects.

However, it is important to distinguish herbal medicines from other products legally known as "dietary supplements", whose concentrations of natural active ingredient(s) are often very much under-dosed and whose controls to ensure product quality are infinitely less strict.

Sleep without medication?

Don't forget that falling asleep takes preparation. A few simple changes in your behavior can solve your sleep difficulties.

updated on 4/25/24

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