- Causes of Fatigue Slideshow Pictures
- Sleep Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
- Sleep Slideshow: Foods That Help or Harm Your Sleep
- What are hypnotics? How do they work (mechanism of action)?
- What are hynotics used to treat?
- Hypnotic side effects
- Are hypnotics addictive?
- Can I drink alcohol if I'm taking a hypnotic drug?
- OTC (over-the-counter) hypnotics
- Natural, herbal hypnotics and hypnotic supplements
- Types of hypnotics (hypnotic drugs)
- List and examples of brand and generic names of hypnotic drugs
- What drugs or supplements interact with hypnotics?
- Are these drugs safe to take if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
What are hypnotics? How do they work (mechanism of action)?
Hypnotics are drugs that are used to help people fall asleep. There are many types of hypnotic drugs, and doctors recommend and prescribe them based on the type of sleep problem you have. Lifestyle and sleep habit changes also are effective for treating certain types of sleep problems.
If you have chronic insomnia or problems sleeping contact your doctor or other health care professional. Doctors specializing in sleep problems (sleep medicine) can help you determine the cause of your insomnia and treat it.
Hypnotic drugs also called sleep aids, sleeping pills, or soporifics.
What are hynotics used to treat?
Doctors prescribe hypnotics to treat insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep problem that may involve difficulty falling or staying asleep. Inadequate sleep affects mood, energy levels, health, and work performance.
Common causes of insomnia are stress, traumatic events, depression, anxiety, and medications. If you know the cause of your insomnia and treat it, it may reduce the need for sleep medications to aid or induce sleep.
Hypnotic side effects
Side effects of hypnotics depend upon the type of hypnotic used.
Some common side effects of some hypnotics include:
- Short-term forgetfulness
- Rebound insomnia
- Dry mouth
- Withdrawal symptoms (for example, anxiety, or insomnia)
- Unpleasant taste
Other side effects of hypnotics may include:
- Abnormal dreams
- Upper respiratory infections
- Stomach upset
- Loss of coordination
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Loss of appetite
Possible serious side effects may include:
Are hypnotics addictive?
Benzodiazepines are addictive hypnotics and are federally controlled substances. People can develop a physical dependence after several days of taking them, and the risk is higher during long-term use.
OTC (over-the-counter) hypnotics
Diphenhydramine (for example, Benadryl) and doxylamine (for example, Unisom) are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that can help people fall asleep. These drugs are antihistamines that cause drowsiness and sedation. Only use these medications for a few days. Talk with your doctor or other health care professional if you have insomnia for more than a couple of weeks.
You should read the instructions and warnings before taking OTC sleep medicine because they can have serious adverse effects if not used properly. They also may interfere with the action of other drugs.
Side effects reported by people taking diphenhydramine or doxylamine include:
Natural, herbal hypnotics and hypnotic supplements
Synthetic melatonin capsules, pills, or tablets may help people fall asleep. Melatonin is most often used for treating jet lag. Melatonin takes few days, up to a few weeks to work when it is used for treating sleep problems.
Valerian is another supplement available to treat insomnia.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal, natural, or other supplemental products for insomnia.
Types of hypnotics (hypnotic drugs)
The FDA has approved five types of hypnotic medications for the treatment of sleep problems, which include:
- Nonbenzodiazepine receptor agonists
- Melatonin receptor agonists
- Orexin receptor agonist
These medications are all effective for treating sleep problems, but they work in different ways. Some sleep medicines only last a few hours (short-acting medications) while others last longer in the body (long-acting medications). Doctors and other health care professionals choose sleep medications based on the type of sleep problem you have. For example, people who have trouble falling asleep will benefit from a short-acting sleep medicine. People who have trouble staying asleep will benefit more from long-acting sleep drugs.
List and examples of brand and generic names of hypnotic drugs
There are over 40 different sedative/hypnotic drugs available. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional for any addition information about the generic forms available.
Melatonin receptor agonists
Non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists
The dose of these drugs vary. Talk to your doctor about the exact dose you need to fall asleep.
Are these drugs safe to take if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Researchers have not studied the effects of most hypnotics in pregnant women. Therefore, they should not be used if you are pregnant unless it is absolutely necessary. Pregnant women who have sleep problems should try improving their sleep hygiene, relaxation, and ways to reduce stress.
- Benzodiazepine use is harmful to the fetus when taken by pregnant women during their first trimester so you should avoid them if you are pregnant.
- Diphenhydramine may have a low risk of causing harm during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant discuss the use of these drugs with your doctor.
Hypnotics are sleep medications used to treat different types of insomnia.
There are a variety of hypnotic drugs, and they are grouped into five types. Benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepines,
selective melatonin agonists (these three drug types are classified as
sedatives), antidepressants, and an orexin receptor agonist. Some hypnotics can
be addictive and may cause withdrawal symptoms if discontinued abruptly.
The side effects of hypnotics depend upon the drug used, but they may include:
Other side effects may include:
Hypnotics may have serious side effects and adverse effects, for example:
- Abnormal thinking
- Suicidal thinking
- Sleep paralysis
- Sleep driving and other complex behavior
- Exfoliate dermatitis
Hypnotic drugs available over-the-counter (OTC) include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and doxylamine (Unisom). Natural herbal supplements used for insomnia are melatonin and Valerian.
Do not drink alcohol while taking hypnotic drugs. Stimulants like caffeine or amphetamines reduce the effect of insomnia medications.
Your doctor or other health care professional will recommend the type of hypnotic drug for you depending upon the type of sleep problem you have, your current lifestyle habits, other medications you are taking, and any other medical problems you may have.
FDA. "Sleep Disorder (Sedative-Hypnotic) Drug Information." Updated: Jun 13, 2017.
Chawala, J, MD. "Insomnia Medication." Medscape. Updated: Aug 01, 2016.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Sleep Quiz: Sleep Hygiene & Sleep Facts
Take our Sleeping Quiz to learn which sleep disorders, causes, and symptoms rule the night. Trouble falling or staying asleep?...
Sleep Better, Conquer Insomnia
What is insomnia? Are you an insomniac? Learn 10 tips on how to get a good night's sleep and avoid sleep disorders such as...
Addicted to Pills: The Health Risks of Drug Abuse
What is drug abuse? Learn about prescription drug abuse and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, including depressants, pain relievers,...
Sleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More
Learn about the different types of sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Explore the symptoms, causes, tests and...
25 Ways to Stay Well Abroad in Pictures
Explore travel health tips and vaccines to prevent disease while abroad. Learn to protect yourself against malaria, hepatitis,...
Long Life in Pictures: Tips on Sleep, Diet, and More
Did you know making friends can help you live longer? Our experts explore ways to increase your longevity such as making friends,...
Jobs That May Ruin Your Sleep
Some jobs can lead to sleep problems like insomnia, especially for graveyard and other shift work. Learn how work can disrupt...
Top Reasons Children Can't Sleep in Pictures
From snoring and nightmares to sleep apnea and even you, see the bad habits that are keeping your child up all night....
Teen Drug Abuse: Warning Signs, Statistics, and Facts
Teen drug abuse is a growing concern today. Learn statistics, facts, warning signs, and effects related to teen substance abuse...
Prescription Drug Abuse: Know The Warning Signs
Learn about prescription drug abuse facts and statistics about the dangers and misconceptions of abusing common prescription...
20 Tips to Beat Insomnia and Sleep Better
Good sleep hygiene leads to better sleep. Avoid insomnia and sleep better by minimizing stress, exercising, and taking proper...
Related Disease Conditions
Travelers should prepare for their trip by visiting their physician to get the proper vaccinations and obtain the necessary...
Sleep Disorders (How to Get a Good Night's Sleep)
A number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best. Sleep...
Jet lag (desynchonosis) is a temporary disorder that results from travel across time zones. Symptoms include anxiety,...
Insomnia Treatment (Sleep Aids and Stimulants)
Insomnia is difficulty in falling or staying asleep, the absence of restful sleep, or poor quality of sleep. Insomnia is a...
Drug addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite negative consequences to the user and...
Sleep Related Breathing Disorders
Sleep-related breathing disorders are characterized by disruptions of normal breathing patterns that only occur during sleep....
When sleepiness interferes with daily routines and activities, or reduces the ability to function, it is called "problem...
Teen Drug Abuse
Drugs commonly abused by teens include tobacco products, marijuana, cold medications, inhalants, depressants, stimulants,...
Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Children and Teenagers
Sleep needs in children and teenagers depend on the age of the child. Sleep disorders in children such as: sleep apnea,...
Treatment & Diagnosis
Medications & Supplements
- zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Zolpimist, Edluar, [Tovalt ODT has been discontinued])
- doxepin (Sinequan and Adapin are discontinued brand in the US; Silenor)
- temazepam, Restoril
- trazodone (Desyrel - discontinued brand)
- diphenhydramine, Benadryl
- mirtazapine, Remeron, Soltab
- zaleplon, Sonata
- triazolam, Halcion
- eszopiclone, Lunesta
- valerian (valeriana officinalis) - oral
- Benzodiazepines (Benzodiazepine Drug Class)
- ramelteon, Rozerem
- Belsomra (suvorexant)
- Benzodiazepines vs. Ambien
Prevention & Wellness
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
FDA Prescribing Information.
FDA. "Sleep Disorder (Sedative-Hypnotic) Drug Information." Updated: Jun 13, 2017.