Sleep Disorders: Drug Treatments

Last Editorial Review: 6/20/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

In some cases, doctors will prescribe medicines for the treatment of sleep disorders. Medications should be used in combination with good sleep practices and/or behavioral treatments.

Medications are often prescribed for short-term use.

Types of Medications Used to Treat Sleep Disorders

Listed below are some of the types of drugs used to treat sleep disorders. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication for your particular sleep disorder.

  • Anti-parkinsonian drugs (dopamine agonists) including Larodopa, Sinemet, Parlodel, Requip, Permax, and Mirapex. These drugs may be used to treat restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder (also called nocturnal myoclonus syndrome).
  • Benzodiazepines, which are included in a class of drugs called hypnotics. Some types of benzodiazepines include Klonopin, Valium, Restoril, Xanax, and Ativan. These drugs may be used to treat parasomnias. Occasionally, they are also used to treat bruxism (teeth grinding) and short-term insomnia.
  • Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, including Ambien, Sonata, and newly approved Lunesta (formerly called Estorra). These drugs are used to treat short-term insomnia.
  • Opiates, such as codeine, oxycodone, methadone, dihydromorphone, and propoxyphene. These drugs may be used to treat restless legs syndrome that is refractory or present in pregnancy.
  • Anticonvulsants, such as Tegretol, Carbatrol; Depakene, Depakote; and Neurontin. These drugs may be used to treat nocturnal eating syndrome, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and insomnia related to bipolar disorder.

In the Pipeline

The pharmaceutical company Lundbeck is developing a direct-acting gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) agonist to treat sleep disorders. The drug, Gaboxadol, has entered phase III development for the treatment of insomnia after promising results from phase II trials.

Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.

Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005

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Last Editorial Review: 6/20/2005