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Medicines for sleep

Using Sleep Medicines

Some people may need medicines to help with sleep for a short period of time. But in the long run, making changes in your lifestyle and sleep habits is the best treatment for problems with falling and staying asleep.

Before using medicines for sleep, talk to your health care provider about treating other issues, such as:

Alternative Names

Benzodiazepines; Sedatives; Hypnotics; Sleeping pills; Insomnia - medicines; Sleep disorder - medicines

Over-the-Counter Sleep Medicines

Most over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills contain antihistamines. These medicines are commonly used to treat allergies.

While these sleep aids are not addictive, your body becomes used to them quickly. Therefore, they are less likely to help you fall asleep over time.

These medicines can also leave you feeling tired or groggy the next day and can cause memory problems in older adults.

Sleep Medicine From Your Doctor

Sleep medicines called hypnotics can be prescribed by your provider to help reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep. The most commonly used hypnotics are:

Most of these can become habit-forming. Only take these medicines while under the care of a provider. You will likely be started with the lowest dose possible.

While taking these medicines:

Side effects of these medicines include:

Before taking birth control pills, cimetidine for heartburn, or medicines used to treat fungus infections, tell your provider you are also taking sleeping pills.

Other Medicines for Sleep

Some depression medicines can also be used at lower doses at bedtime, because they make you drowsy.

Your body is less likely to become dependent on these medicines. Your provider will prescribe these drugs and monitor you while you are on them.

When to Call the Doctor

Side effects to watch out for include:

References

Chokroverty S, Avidan AY. Sleep and its disorders. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SK, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 102.

Krystal AD. Pharmacologic treatment of insomnia: other medications. In: Kryger M, Roth T, Dement WC, eds. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 88.

Walsh JK, Roth T. Pharmacologic treatment of insomnia: benzodiazepine receptor agnosists. In: Kryger M, Roth T, Dement WC, eds. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 87.


Review Date: 5/21/2016
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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