Prescription Sleep Medication

Last updated: October 30, 2019

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The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

Although sleep disorders like insomnia or Restless Leg Syndrome are common, not everyone can easily cope with them. They’ve become disruptive in some cases. They might end up affecting the productivity of a person. During these instances, a doctor might prescribe medications that can treat sleep disorder.

What are the most common prescription sleep medications?

Antidepressants

These are drugs that are great at treating sleeplessness and anxiety.

Benzodiazepines

These are the first-generation sleeping pills. They are useful if you need a medication that stays longer in your system. These are ideal for use as a treatment for sleep disorders like sleepwalking or night terrors. However, these are now rarely prescribed by doctors. Benzodiazepines are known to cause daytime sleepiness. Using them long term can also lead to dependence. This means that you might always need to take a benzodiazepine in order to fall asleep.

Doxepine

This is a medication for those who have trouble staying asleep. This medication works by blocking histamine receptors. Do not take this medication if you are not ready to take a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

Eszopiclone

This medication can help you fall asleep faster. On average, patients who take this medication were able to get an average of 7 hours of sleep. Just like with Doxepine, this medication is only for those who are able to get up to 7 hours of sleep. If you wake up without getting at least 7 hours of sleep, you might feel drowsy and uncoordinated. The FDA recommends the starting dose of this medication to be no more than 1 milligram.

Ramelteon

This medication works by targeting the sleep-wake cycle or Circadian Rhythm. They are different from other medications that depress the central nervous system. This is a medication for those who have trouble falling asleep and not for those who are unable to stay asleep. One advantage of these drugs is you can use them for the long-term. It also doesn’t show any evidence of potential for abuse or dependence.

Suvorexant

This is a medication that works by blocking a hormone that promotes wakefulness. This medication is used to treat people who have insomnia due to their inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep.

Zaleplon

Zaleplon is one of the newer sleep medications. This medication stays active in the body for the shortest amount of time. Which is why it is ideal for those who need to fall asleep but stay active the following day. If you have a job that requires mental and physical alertness, this is a sleep medication that won’t affect your job. However, this is not recommended for those who have trouble staying asleep all night.

Zolpidem

This is a medication that helps get people to sleep. The nice thing about this medication is it is available in an extended release version. An extended release version means that the effects are gradually felt by the body long after the medication has been ingested. This makes it ideal for those who need to go to sleep and stay asleep longer. The downside with this medication is you should never drive the following day. The effects of this medication stay in the body for a long time and may affect your actions the following day.

Over-the-counter sleep aids

Over-the-counter sleep aids are those that you can buy without the need for a prescription. The most common OTC sleep aids are antihistamines. They are safe to take but you shouldn’t take them if you’re already taking other drugs that can cause sleepiness. Do not take antihistamines together with flu or cold medications.

Can prescription sleep medications cause side effects?

When a doctor prescribes a sleep medication, the patient gets alerted about possible side effects. This way, you know what to expect and you won’t panic if you experience any of the said side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Tingling sensation in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Change in appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired mobility
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Unusual dreams
  • Fatigue

These side effects are normal. However, you need to inform your doctor if the side effects are worse than expected. You should also tell your doctor if the side effects affect your productivity whether at work, home, or school. Your doctor can prescribe another medication that won’t prevent you from functioning properly.

Can I be allergic to a prescription sleep medication?

Yes, you can have an allergic reaction to a medicine, sleep medications included. The allergic reaction may be because of an active ingredient of the medication. It can even be due to an inactive ingredient like a dye or a coating. Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Hives
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Rashes
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat, or around the eyes.

Prescription sleep medications are usually the last resort for those who have sleep disorders. We take them when non-medical means of solving the disorder doesn’t work. If your doctor prescribes a medication to you, you need to make sure that you follow the prescription to the dot. This will ensure that the medication will work properly. It will also help you avoid any unwanted effects from the medication. There is no sense in taking a sleep medication if it will only result in a more serious health concern.

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