Sleep Medications

Medications and Their Commonly Used Names

IMAGE There are several types of prescription and nonprescription medications that can be used to treat insomnia.

Prescription Drugs

Benzodiazepine-receptor agonists —These are hypnotic drugs that have a sedative effect. This class includes:
  • Benzodiazepines, which are also used to treat depression, anxiety, or seizure disorder.
  • Nonbenzodiazepines, which have similar effects to traditional benzodiazepines and mainly used to treat mild insomnia.
Melatonin-receptor agonist—This medication is used to treat insomnia characterized by difficulty with falling asleep. It shortens the time it takes to fall asleep in people with transient insomnia. Sedating antidepressants—For long-term treatment of insomnia or when insomnia is accompanied by depression and/or caused by depression. These antidepressants are different other classes of antidepressants.

Nonprescription Drugs

Nonprescription sleeping aids can leave people feeling drowsy the next day and may not always be effective at providing restful sleep. However, they are often used as the first line of treatment for short-term insomnia because they are not addictive and a fatal overdose is extremely rare. These include the following:Antihistamines—There are many antihistamines available over-the-counter. Diphenhydramine is a commonly used antihistamine for insomnia. Not all antihistamines are effective for this purpose, especially the newer, nondrowsy antihistamines.Melatonin—A natural hormone produced in the brain. Melatonin triggers sleep and is more active at night. Your body produces more melatonin in a completely dark room than in a dimly lit one. Melatonin may be useful when your normal sleep cycle has been disturbed, such as during travel-induced jet lag.Pain relievers—Can be useful when insomnia is caused by minor pain. The information below relates to prescription sleep medications unless stated otherwise.

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