Home > Health Library > Prescription Sleep Medicines
Benzodiazepines may also be used to provide short-term
relief from insomnia.
These medicines are called
sedative-hypnotics. They help your brain relax so that you can fall
Some people may need medicine for a
while to help them fall asleep. Doctors often prescribe medicine for a short
time if other treatment isn't working. These medicines work best as a
short-term treatment combined with lifestyle and behavior changes.
These medicines are effective at
treating insomnia. They are the first-choice medicines for short-term
But how these medicines (except for ramelteon) treat insomnia may be in part, due to a placebo effect.2
These sleep medicines may not have as many withdrawal and
tolerance effects as another class of drugs called benzodiazepines that are
used to treat sleep problems. But medicine doesn't work as well over time
as lifestyle and behavior changes do. Except for
ramelteon, sleep medicine can also become habit-forming.
Side effects of sleep medicines may vary
depending on which one you take. But side effects may include:
In rare cases, people taking these medicines have done
activities, such as driving and eating, while still asleep.
Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not
available in all systems.)
These medicines may help with
sleep problems, but they may not work any better than less expensive
nonprescription sleep medicines, such as Nytol or Sominex.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Hirschkowitz M, et al. (2009). Sleep disorders. In BJ Sadock et al., eds. Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 1, pp. 2150–2177. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Huedo-Medina T, et al. (2012). Effectiveness of non-benzodiazepine hypnotics in treatment of adult insomnia: Meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. BMJ, Published online December 17, 2012 (doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8343).
November 18, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
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