Prescription sleep medicines fall into one of several classes. In determining which sleep medicines may be right for you, your provider will consider your medical history, your insomnia symptoms, other medications you are taking, and the way the medicine works in the body.
NON-BENZODIAZEPINES. This is the newest class of sleep medicines. The currently available products have a short half-life, which means they are eliminated from the body quickly. Because of this, they are not likely to cause daytime sleepiness. They are also “selective,” which means they target specific receptors that are thought to be associated with sleep. (Examples: Sonata, Ambien)
ANTIDEPRESSANTS. Providers may prescribe antidepressants to promote sleep, although none of these medicines are specifically approved for this purpose.
Nonprescription sleep medicines usually contain antihistamines which may induce drowsiness that lasts into the next day. Many cold and allergy medicines contain antihistamines ( like diphenhydramine hydrochloride - Benedryl), which is why they can make you feel sleepy.
You should discuss ANY sleep aid you are planning to take — whether prescription or nonprescription — with your provider.
- How long can I take this medication?
Before taking any sleep aid, ask about the duration and frequency of its use.
Prescription sleep medicines are usually prescribed for 7 to 10 days. Your provider may recommend that you use a prescription sleep aid for more than 10 days after he or she reassesses your particular sleep problems.
- Am I at risk for becoming addicted to this medicine?
If taken as prescribed, sleep medicines usually do not cause dependence (addiction). If you have been dependent on alcohol or other drugs in the past, you might have a greater chance of becoming addicted.
In general, the most common side effects of sleep medicines include dizziness, lightheadedness, daytime drowsiness, diarrhea, and difficulty with coordination. With some prescription medicines, however, the risk of these side effects is very small.
Here are some ways to ensure your treatment is as safe and successful as possible:
- Use only as directed.
- Never use alcohol while taking any sleep medicine.
- Tell your provider if you are taking any other medicines, including those you can buy without a prescription.
- If you experience any unusual behavior changes or thought patterns after starting on a medicine, report it to your provider.
- When you first start taking any sleep medication, use extreme care while doing anything that requires complete alertness, such as driving a car or operating machinery. See whether the medicine has any effect on you the next day.