Insomnia, a type of sleep disorder, is the most common sleep condition. The symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep and/or frequent waking up during the night. If the symptoms happen more than 3 times per week for at least 3 months even with plenty of opportunities to sleep, you may be suffering from chronic insomnia.
Insomnia can have
Substances / Medications
Situational / Conditions
Proper sleep hygiene can reduce or eliminate the need for drug treatment for insomnia.
If insomnia persists after implementing proper sleep hygiene and addressing possible causes, medication treatment is often used intermittently or on a nightly basis. There are many natural products, over the counter medications, and prescription medications available for the treatment of insomnia. Informing your doctor if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both will help the doctor choose which medications are best for you. Medications should only be used for short term therapy (about 4 to 5 weeks).
Melatonin is a hormone that your body makes and it regulates sleep-wake cycles. It is available as an over the counter supplement and frequently used for sleep. The recommended dosage for melatonin is 3 to 5 mg 3 to 4 hours before
Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and doxylamine have sedating effects. These are the most common over the counter medications to treat insomnia. They can be helpful for insomnia short term, but should not be used long term. Tolerance to sedative effects can develop within days. Side effects include dry mouth, blurry vision, constipation, confusion, and urinaryretention. These should be limited in elderly patients and avoided in patients with benign
There are different classes of prescription drugs that are used often to help treat insomnia. You should consult with a healthcare provider to decide on which treatment option would best work for
“Z drugs” include Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata. They are pure sedative medications with no effects on anxiety. Some side effects to watch out for are headache, dry mouth, unpleasant taste (mostly with Lunesta), and sleep behaviors [driving, eating, etc. (mostly with Ambien)].
Another class of medications often used for insomnia is benzodiazepines such as temazepam and lorazepam. They may be beneficial for patients with anxiety in addition to insomnia, as benzodiazepines have anti-anxiety effects as well. Due to tolerance and dependence issues, however, benzodiazepines are only recommended for a short term therapy of 5 to 7 days. These may require tapering off when discontinuing due to potential withdrawal effects.
There are other prescription medications used for insomnia besides Z-drugs and benzodiazepines, and it is necessary to discuss with a healthcare provider to decide on which medication. Here are some important points to remember when taking medications to help with insomnia.
Written By: Eddie Chang and Ellie Sung