We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Sedative-Hypnotics?

By Misty Wiser
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
TheHealthBoard is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At TheHealthBoard, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Sedative-hypnotics are a class of drugs prescribed to induce tranquility and to promote sleep. These medications have a calming effect on the person taking them, and are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. The drugs are a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Long-term use of these drugs can cause physiological and psychological dependence. Ingesting large doses of sedative-hypnotics can slow the respiratory system and the heart, leading to death.

Central nervous system depressants are designed to slow the activity of the brain. Sedative-hypnotics act upon a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay messages to different parts of the brain. Increasing the activity of the GABA neurotransmitter causes a relaxing effect that eases anxiety or panic disorders.

Most sedative-hypnotics are benzodiazepines or barbiturates. The use of barbiturates, or downers, has declined since benzodiazepines were developed for the pharmacological market in the early 1950s. Short-acting barbiturates can be used for anesthesia, and longer acting ones are used for anti-convulsants. Benzodiazepines have less risk of severe side effects and are more likely to be prescribed to offset anxiety. Seconal® and Nembutal® are barbiturates used to treat anxiety and some sleep disorders.

The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are Xanax®, Valium®, and Librium®. They are classified according to how long the medication can be detected in the body. Short-acting drugs are prescribed to treat acute panic disorders and anxiety attacks. Long-acting drugs are used to treat those with chronic anxiety.

Regular use of sedative-hypnotics over a long period of time can lead to a tolerance of the drug prescribed. The dosage would need to be increased to maintain the same level of effectiveness. Quitting the medications can result in withdrawal symptoms of restlessness, agitation, insomnia, and great anxiety. Discontinuing the drugs suddenly can even result in seizures and possibly death. All persons thinking about quitting these drugs should consult with their physician.

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are drugs that have a high likelihood of abuse. The calm, peaceful feelings produced by these drugs can be addictive to some. Taking these drugs with other CNS depressants, like alcohol, can cause the heart and the respiratory systems to slow down to fatal levels. Slightly more than the prescribed dose can cause slurred speech, slow reflexes, an unstable gait, and a lapse in judgment.

Side effects of sedative-hypnotics in small doses are usually limited to dry mouth, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, or a loss of appetite. Larger doses have more severe side effects such as drowsiness, tremors, lowered mental acuity, and impaired physical coordination. These undesirable effects will lessen as the dosage is lowered, and most people do not discontinue the use of the medications based on the incidence of side effects.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.