Mar 05

Sleeping Pill

Prescription sleeping pills and sleep medications

There are several different types of prescription sleeping pills. These medications are classified as sedative hypnotics. In general, the medications act by working on receptors in the brain to slow down the nervous system. Some medications are used more for inducing sleep, while others are used for staying asleep. Some last longer than others in your system, a longer half life, and some have a higher risk of becoming habit forming. For more information about a medication, follow the link in the table to a Physicians Desk Reference review of each medication. Consult your healthcare professional if you have a specific question about a medication.

Benzodiazepine sedative hypnotic sleeping pills
Benzodiazepines are the oldest class of sleep medications still commonly in use. Benzodiazepines as a group are thought to have a higher risk of dependence than other insomnia sedative hypnotics. All are classified as controlled substances. Primarily used to treat anxiety disorders, benzodiazepines approved to treat insomnia include,

Estazolam, also known as ProSom
Flurazepam, also known as Dalmane
Quazepam, also known as Doral
Temazepam, also known as Restoril
Triazolam, also known as Halcion

Drawbacks to benzodiazepine sleeping pills
Use of sleeping medications, especially benzodiazepines, can become troublesome for several reasons,

You can become both physically and psychologically dependent on the sleep medication. You may believe that you can not sleep without it, and actually experience physical withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and rebound insomnia.

They can lose their effectiveness if used on a nightly basis, because the brain receptors become less sensitive to their effects. In as little as three to four weeks, benzodiazepines can become no more effective than a sugar pill.

The overall quality of your sleep can be reduced, with less restorative deep sleep and dream sleep.

You may experience next day cognitive slowing and drowsiness, called the hangover effect, which may be even greater than from sleep deprivation.

Even if the medication is effective while taking it, insomnia returns once it is stopped.

Non benzodiazepine sedative hypnotic sleeping pills
Some newer medications do not have the same chemical structure as a benzodiazepine, but act on the same area in the brain. They are thought to have fewer side effects, and less risk of dependency, but are still considered controlled substances. One medication in this class, eszopiclone also called Lunesta, has been tested for longer term use, up to six months.

Eszopiclone also known as Lunesta
Zalepon also known as Sonata
Zolpidem also known as Ambien

Drawbacks to non benzodiazepine sleeping pills
Generally, non benzodiazepines have fewer drawbacks than benzodiazepines, but that does not make them suitable for everyone. Some may find this type of sleep medication ineffective at helping them sleep, while the long-term effects remain unknown. Side effects include,

Morning grogginess
Drug tolerance
Rebound insomnia
Headaches, dizziness, nausea
In rare cases, dangerous sleeprelated behaviors such as sleepwalking, sleepdriving, and sleepeating

Melatonin receptor agonist hypnotic sleeping pills
This is the newest type of sleep medication and works by mimicking the sleep regulation hormone melatonin. It has little risk of physical dependency but does have side effects. It is used for sleep onset problems and is not effective for problems in staying asleep.

Ramelteon also called Rozerem

Drawbacks to ramelteon
Ramelteons most common side effect is dizziness. It may also worsen symptoms of depression and should not be used by those with severe liver damage.

The Food and Drug Administration, also known as FDA, has not approved these drugs for the treatment of insomnia, nor has their use been proven effective in treating sleeplessness. However, some physicians believe insomnia is related to depression. As with all depression medication, there is a small but significant risk of suicidal thoughts or worsening of depression, particularly in children and adolescents.

To learn more on the use and dangers of depression medication, see Antidepressants

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