Prescription Sleep Drugs: What You Need to Know Now


When used correctly, prescription sleep medications may provide rapid relief of the symptoms of insomnia—and may be safer and more effective than over-the-counter medicines that don't require a doctor's permission to purchase.

But not all prescription options have been shown to be effective for long-term treatment of insomnia. And many of these medicines can cause side effects such as low blood pressure, anxiety, and nausea. Evidence suggests that these medicines also may become less effective when your body gets used to them.

Not all prescription sleep medicines are the same. Here are a few options you may discuss with your doctor.

  • Hypnotic medications, such as benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines, help you fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Antidepressants that have a calming or sedative effect are sometimes prescribed to aid sleep.
  • Rozerem is a different type of sleep medicine that helps regulate your body's internal clock. Rozerem has few side effects and appears to be non-habit-forming.
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When taking prescription sleep medications, its best to take them only as directed by your doctor, for a short period of time at the lowest-effective dose. Its important to stop taking them as soon as you can; older adults especially can become dependent on sleep enhancers. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor about other drugs or supplements you might take along with your sleep medication, to protect against dangerous interactions or unnecessary side effects.

For long-term treatment, behavioral therapy has proved to be more successful than medication. Behavior modification can both improve sleep quality and teach you how to fall asleep, without side effects.
Last Updated: November 17, 2008

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