Today's sleeping pills are much safer than older versions, though some can cause side effects, says Alon Y. Avidan, MD, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. Since most lose effectiveness over time, they're generally recommended for only 7 to 10 days in a row. Your doctor will likely have different suggestions based on your personal situation.
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...who's up tossing and turning over a big project
Ambien or Sonata
If you need to conk out fast (and middle-of-the-night wakeups aren't a problem for you), try one of these drugs. Both bind to areas in the brain that help you modulate sleep to ease you into slumber, then quickly pass out of your system.
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The exhausted mom
whose mind is racing when she lies down-and again when she wakes up at 2 a.m.
Ambien CR or Lunesta
Both of these medications help you fall asleep, but unlike Ambien and Sonata, they're also designed to remain in your bloodstream long enough to keep you asleep all night.
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The recently separated woman
whose sadness is keeping her up at night
This low-dose form of an anti-depressant is also approved for insomnia. It can be taken long-term without the risk of addiction or major side effects, so it's useful for chronic issues, like depression.
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who wakes at 3 a.m. before a 10 a.m. trial and needs to get back to sleep fast
This new pill is the only one that's FDA-approved to be taken for insomnia in the middle of the night, rather than before bed. Just make sure you have at least four hours before you have to get up.