Insomnia Treatment - Doctors and Prescriptions

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Why did you go to a doctor for your insomnia? What medication or treatment did he or she prescribe?

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What prescription medicines are there for insomnia?

There are numerous prescription medications options a doctor may prescribe if a person is suffering from short-term or chronic insomnia. Most are not recommended for long-term use.

Medication to treat insomnia includes several classes of drugs;

  • Short-acting sedative-hypnotics (non-benzodiazepines) - these medications slow activity in the brain to allow sleep.
    • zolpidem (Ambien, ZolpiMist)
      • Intermezzo was approved by the FDA in 2011. It is a form of zolpidem, taken sublingually (dissolved under the tongue) and in smaller doses than Ambien.
    • zaleplon (Sonata)
    • eszopiclone (Lunesta)

In 2007, the FDA issued a warning in regard to sedative-hypnotic drugs and their risks, which "...include severe allergic reactions and complex sleep-related behaviors, which may include sleep driving. Sleep driving is defined as driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of the event."

  • Melatonin receptor agonists - used to help patients who have difficulty falling asleep and it works similarly to melatonin  
    • ramelteon (Rozerem): Ramelteon is a medication taken by mouth 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Ramelteon should not be taken if the patient will not be able to sleep for at least 7-8 hours. Insomnia usually improves in 7-10 days.
    • One of the advantages of ramelteon over other prescription sleep medications is the lack of dependence on the medication.
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) - this class of medication is used to slow down the central nervous system, causing drowsiness. These medications have a high risk of dependence with chronic usage.  
    • flurazepam (Dalmane)
    • temazepam (Restoril)
    • estazolam (ProSom)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants are medications work by increasing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain that are needed for mental balance.
    • doxepin (Silenor): in 2010, this sleep medicine was approved for the use in people who have trouble staying asleep. Silenor may help with sleep maintenance by blocking histamine receptors.

If your doctor recommends prescription sleep medications:

  • Follow all prescribing instructions given by your physician.
  • Tell your doctor any other medications or supplements you take as many can have adverse interactions with sleep medications.
  • Tell your doctor about any pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Note any possible negative side effects (changes in your body, and even your emotions)
  • Do not use the medications nightly unless instructed to do so by a doctor - this can lead to dependence.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or taking other non-prescription drugs while using sleep medication.
  • Never drive a car or operate machinery after taking a sleeping pill.
Return to Insomnia Treatment (Sleep Aids and Stimulants)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Freidenker, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 01

I have had insomnia for 4 years (cannot fall asleep) and have relied on Ambien past 3 plus years. I had mild amnesia symptoms in the morning so am needing to change. I tried trazodone, it is not effective (2 plus hours to fall asleep) and dry mouth follows in morning. Now I am trying hypnotherapy and need other prescription in meantime. Rozerem and Lunesta are next in line to try.

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