Many people who have troubles falling asleep at night take sleeping pills hoping they will find relief. Individuals with mild sleep disturbances usually opt for over-the-counter medication without consulting with a doctor. Due to hectic schedules and general lack of time, people often avoid seeking medical help until their symptoms become unbearable. The fact is that although we don’t like sleeping pills, we will most likely take them when stress, travel or other disruptions keep us awake all night. If we are forced to take sleeping pills because nothing else works, we should know the facts and identify the ones that will really give us at least some rest. Find out how sleep drugs work, as well as when and how to properly use them.
Sleep Pills Are a Bandage, Not a Cure
Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology and sleep medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine says that we should never forget that sleep pills are a bandage and not a cure for our sleep issues. Taking sleep drugs is the same as using Tylenol for fever every day without ever knowing what is the cause of it. Insomnia is in 90% of the cases a symptom of an underlying issue or another medical condition. Insomnia can be caused by depression, stress, too little exercise and a hundred other health issues. Attacking your problem with pills won’t resolve those underlying problems.
If you are diagnosed with chronic insomnia, your first line of treatment should be cognitive behavioral therapy also known as CBT-I. CBT-I is considered the best way to treat and alleviate symptoms of chronic insomnia.
Medications Recommended only for Chronic Insomnia
Sleeping pills are best to be taken only if you suffer from chronic insomnia. However, only 10% of people actually meet the criteria for this sleep disorder. In order to be diagnosed with chronic insomnia, apart from the usual symptoms such as fatigue, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep during night etc., your sleeping issues must last at least three months and occur at least three times a week. It is very important to know that different medicines are used to treat various types of insomnia. Most people suffer from sleep onset insomnia (inability to fall asleep) or sleep maintenance insomnia (inability to stay asleep).
The Top Over the Counter Sleeping Pills
If you are experiencing temporary sleep disturbances due to stress, anxiety, hectic work or school schedules, OTC sleeping pills may help you get a better night’s sleep. If you think you are suffering from a sleep disorder, keep in mind that OTC sleep drugs will not solve your problem.
An over the counter sleep aid might be a better alternative to alleviate temporary and mild sleep disturbances. Prescription sleeping pills are much stronger than OTC, therefore it is recommended to use them only when there is no other way to address your sleeping problem. Unlike prescription pills, OTC drugs have fewer side effects and don’t cause issues with tolerance and dependency. However, you should still be very careful and take them only for a week or two. If you notice any side effects, it is best to stop using them immediately and consult with your physician about the best ways to handle your sleeping problem.
Over-the-counter sleep pills can be divided into four main categories:
- Herbal remedies
- Combination sleep aid
Anti-histamines have the strongest sedative effect and usually cause you to feel groggy and drowsy the next morning. Melatonin based sleep pills help you regulate sleep patterns, especially when they are affected by jet lag or shift work.
Herbal remedies are made from plant extracts, and usually have a milder effect. Herbal sleep pills can help you relax and reduce stress and anxiety. Lastly, combination sleep aid consists of melatonin, plant extracts and other ingredients that promote better night’s sleep.
|OTC Group||US BRAND NAME||ACTIVE INGREDIENT||INDUCES SLEEP||IMPROVES SLEEP MAINTENANCE||ABUSE POTENTIAL|
|Anti-histamines||Kirkland Sleep Aid||Doxylamine succinate 25 mg||yes||yes||no|
|Anti-histamines||Unisom Sleep Gels||Diphenhydramine hydrochloride 25 or 50 mg||yes||yes||yes|
|Melatonin||Natrol Melatonin||Melatonin 5mg||yes||no||no|
|Combination sleep aid||Luna Sleep Aid||Melatonin
|Combination sleep aid||The Zenwise Labs Sleep Support||Melatonin
|Combination sleep aid||Vitafusion SleepWell||Melatonin
|Herbal remedy||Kalms One-A-Night||Valerian extract 385 mg||yes||no||no|
|Combination sleep aid||Lunexia Sleep Aid||Calcium 45mg
Vitamin B6 1.8mg
Proprietary sleep blend 1071mg
|Combination sleep aid||MidNite Sleep Aid||Melatonin 1.5mg
|Combination sleep aid||Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep Aid||Suntheanine L-Theanine 200mg
The following OTC sleeping aids are reviewed and ranked based on an 8-point criteria that consists of ingredient quality, safety, packaging, long-term benefits, price, company reputation, customer feedback and sleep aid potential.Kirkland Sleep Aid
1. Kirkland Signature
is considered among the strongest OTC sleep aids in the anti-histamine category available on the market.
Active ingredients: Doxylamine succinate 25 mg
Since the active ingredient in Kirkland Signature is Doxylamine Succinate, a substance that has a very strong sedative effect, you will most likely feel physically and mentally tired after taking it. This is a good option if you yearn for a night of deep and uninterrupted sleep. However, it’s not a good choice if you plan to go to bed late and get up early in the morning to go to work. Kirkland sleep aid requires you to wake up slowly in the morning in order to avoid drowsiness and grogginess.
When it comes to safety, Doxylamine doesn’t require you to increase the dosage every night. It also doesn’t cause problems with addictions like many prescription sleep drugs do. This is an effective option is you are looking for a way to overcome a period of bad, interrupted and disrupted sleep.
2. Unisom Sleep Gels
Unlike Kirkland sleep aid products; this anti-histamine based sleep pill has a mild sedative effect that doesn’t cause drowsiness and grogginess the next morning.
Active ingredients: Diphenhydramine hydrochloride 25 or 50 mg
Unisom is a well-known OTC sleep drug on the market. Like the Kirkland sleep aid, Unisom is also an anti-histamine sleeping pill; however, the active ingredient is different. The active ingredient in this sleep drug is Unisom Diphenhydramine hydrochloride. The product is available in either 25 mg or 50 mg doses.
Since it has a gentler effect on our body’s system, it may be a good option if this is your first time using a sleeping drug, and if you are not sure how sensitive you are to medications of this type.
It is important to keep in mind that most people develop tolerance to the active ingredient of Unisom. Therefore, prolonged use is not recommended. If you feel the need to increase the dosage above the recommended level, it’s a sign you should stop using them.
3. Natrol Melatonin
Melatonin supplements help you regulate sleep patterns, and deal with circadian rhythm disruptions caused by jet lag or shift work.
Active ingredients: Melatonin 5mg
Natrol is one of USA’s leading manufacturers of vitamins and supplements and it is considered the number one melatonin brand in the country. This is not an anti-histamine product and doesn’t have the adverse side effects as most sleeping pills. Melatonin supplements help induce sleep and regulate your sleep and wake cycle without interfering with your ability to function normally the next day.
When it comes to safety, it doesn’t develop tolerance or cause addiction. Although it’s not a strong sleep aid, most people find it effective when they have troubles falling asleep at night.
If you’re looking for fast-acting melatonin sleep pills, Source Naturals is considered one of the best over the counter sleep aids on the market. Source Naturals consists of pure melatonin (2,5mg). Since these pills are taken sublingually, they are a good choice when you need to fall asleep quickly. However, like other melatonin based products, they work best when in specific situations, such as when you are struggling with jet lag and shift work.
4. Luna Sleep Aid
Luna is a vegan sleep aid with a wide range of natural ingredients that promote better sleep.
- Melatonin 6 mg
- Magnesium 10 mg
- L-Theanine 200 mg
- Valerian extract 150 mg
- Chamomile extract 150 mg
- Passion flower extract 100 mg
- Lemon balm extract 100 mg
- Hops extract 100 mg
- GABA 100 mg
Luna doesn’t knock you out like most prescription pills. In the first 30 minutes, its subtle effect helps you relax, and then fall asleep like a baby. It is recommended in cases like when you cannot overpower your alertness.
Since Luna is essentially an herbal supplement, it is definitely not harmful and doesn’t cause addiction. The effects of this sleep pill are very gentle, and most consumers of Luna do not experience any negative consequences of using it.
The best thing about Luna sleeping aid is that they offer you a no questions asked money back guarantee. So, if the pills don’t work, you can simply get a refund.
5. The Zenwise Labs Sleep Support
A strong and complex sleep aid that consists of relaxation inducing and natural ingredients.
- Magnesium 80 mg
- Melatonin 6 mg
- Taurine 200 mg
- L-Theanine 200 mg
- l-Ornithine 5 mg
- Chamomile powder 150 mg
- Valerian powder 150 mg
- 5-HTP 100 mg
- GABA 100 mg
The Zenwise Labs Sleep Support has a similar combination of relaxation inducing ingredients such as Luna. Since this sleep drug has a strong dose of different active ingredients such as melatonine, valerian powder, GABA, magnesium and chamomile powder, it is recommended to start with half a dose. If the effect is too light, take the full dose next time.
6. Vitafusion SleepWell
Vitafusion, an already wide-recognized brand, has combined melatonin and herbal ingredients to create a sleep well tablet that is easy to chew.
Melatonin 3 mg
Chamomile flower extract
Lemon balm extract
The main ingredient of the sleep aid is melatonin, therefore, it’s most helpful when you are dealing with shift work, jet lag or irregular sleep patterns that are out of your control. Since this sleep aid also contains ingredients such as passion flower, chamomile, and lemon balm, it can also help fight insomnia and relax your mind if you are losing sleep due to stress and anxiety. The pills don’t cause morning grogginess the next day, but consumers report feeling a bit out when they woke up in the night to go to the bathroom. It’s also worth noticing that Vitafusion SleepWell comes in a gummy form and has a very pleasant taste. It’s very easy to chew and may be a good choice for those who have difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules. If you don’t want to try prescription sleep aids or anti-histamines, and you are interested in trying herbal remedies, this is one the best choices you have on the market.
7. Kalms One-A-Night
Kalms One-A-Night is a valerian based herbal sleep aid.
Valerian extract 385 mg
Unlike other manufacturers who combine multiple natural ingredients into their pills, Kalms One-A-Night contains only valerian. Valerian is commonly used for treating insomnia and anxiety. Although multiple studies have been conducted to inspect the effectiveness of valerian as a sleep aid, we still don’t have enough evidence to say that valerian is indeed an efficient sleep aid. However, studies have proven that this plant can calm the mind which may be very helpful if you are losing sleep due to stress.
It has a mild sedative effect, and it doesn’t have any side effects the next day. Kalms has different versions of sleep aids. The standard one can be taken during the day to reduce anxiety. The one mentioned here, One-A-Night is used only in a single dose.
8. Lunexia Sleep Aid
Lunexia features vitamin B6 and a number of natural ingredients that promote restful sleep.
Vitamin B6 1.8mg
Proprietary sleep blend 1071mg
The proprietary sleep blend contains L-tryptophan, L-Taurin, hops, valerian, wolfberry, chamomile, St. John’s wort, skullcap, GABA, Inositol, 5-HTP, melatonin, lemon balm and passion fruit. Lunexia is a very powerful sleep aid with strong sleep-inducing ingredients. Due to its powerful ingredients, it delivers instant results. Since it’s made of natural ingredients, the best thing about this sleep aid is that it doesn’t have any side effects the next day. You will fall asleep peacefully and wake in the morning refreshed and energized.
9. MidNite Sleep Aid
Midnite sleep aid considered one of the most popular sleeping aids sold online. This sleep aid comes in the form of mint-flavored chewable tablets.
Midnite is different from other sleep aids because it works gradually. The chamomile and lavender relax your muscles and help you to unwind, while melatonin and lemon balm slowly induce sleep. Since this sleep aid works fast, you can even take it in the middle of the night. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it should be taken at least 3 hours before you wish to wake up.
It doesn’t cause any morning side-effects such as drowsiness or lack of concentration. It’s also worth mentioning that this sleep aid is gluten-free and lactose-free and may be a good choice for people who are gluten or lactose intolerant. Lastly, Midnite can be taken without water which may come in handy if you wake up in the middle of the night and look for a quick solution without getting out of bed.
10. Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep Aid
Stress-Relax Tranquil is a sleep aid that combines natural ingredients to support a good night’s sleep without experiencing the morning haze.
Suntheanine L-Theanine 200mg
Stress-Relax Tranquil comes in the form of tropical fruit-flavored chewable tablets and contains natural only ingredients that, when working together, boost relaxation and help with achieving deep and uninterrupted sleep. Since the formula is fast-acting, you will drift off into blissful slumber in no time.
Most online reviews indicate that Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep chewable tablets work best if your mind is racing when lying in bed or if you are currently struggling with stress and anxiety. Since the ingredients are natural and work in harmony with the body’s sleep hormones, you won’t have to worry about nasty side-effects the next morning.
Most OTC Sleep Aids are Non-Habit Forming
One of the biggest worries of using sleep drugs is building tolerance and causing addiction. Good news is that mot OTC sleep aids are homeopathic and not habit forming, meaning you can use them without worries anytime you need them.
However, although most OTC sleep pills do not cause addiction, you shouldn’t use it more than two weeks consecutively. Non habit forming OTC sleep pills are the ones that are homeopathic and herbal.
How OTC Sleep Aids Work?
Over-the-counter sleep drugs work by increasing the presence of naturally occurring body substances, such as melatonin, GABA, and 5-HTP. All sleep aids are designed to promote one of the two actions – to increase the amount a naturally occurring body substance that promotes better night sleep or to block or decrease the substances and chemicals that cause the body to feel tired and drowsy.
Increasing naturally occurring substances in the body is a much better option than blocking the production or absorption of a substance. By taking sleep pills that are made from natural supplements and contain naturally occurring body substances such as melatonin or GABA, have fewer side effect and mostly do not cause addiction. OTC sleeping pills that work by inhibiting the production of a particular substance increase the chance of becoming addicted to the medication.
Although sleep pills such as Unisom, Lunexia, Sominex, and Luna do not require a prescription, consulting with your doctor is necessary in order to ensure safe and effective usage. You should visit your health care provider if you have any concerns over which OTC sleep aid to take, as well as if you notice your current treatment plan doesn’t work.
Recommended Prescription Pills for Insomnia
If you have sleep issues that regularly prevent you from performing your daily activities, you should visit a doctor because you might suffer from a sleep disorder. In this case, taking OTC sleeping pills is not the solution because not all of them are created equally, and some of them may not help you. Not only that some pills won’t work for your problem, but they may also aggravate your condition.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released a set of guidelines for doctors that will help them prescribe a particular medication or supplements for the treatment of chronic insomnia. The instructions are published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The first thing that can be noticed in the guideline is that different types of insomnia must be treated with different medications. For example, sleep onset insomnia is treated with zaleplon (Sonata), triazolam (Halcion), and ramelteon (Rozerem), and sleep maintenance insomnia is treated with suvorexant and doxepin. Sleep experts and doctors warn us that there are only a few drugs that can treat both types of insomnia. Those drugs are Eszopiclone (Lunesta), zolpidem (Ambien, Zolpimist), and temazepam (Restoril).
So, why patients suffering from insomnia have to use different types of sleep pills? Michael J. Sateia, MD and a professor of psychiatry and sleep medicine at The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth remind physicians that some drugs last longer in the body than others. It is vital to use a medication that has an appropriate duration of action for the particular type of insomnia that is being treated. The doctor further says that these recommendations apply only to chronic insomnia. Having occasional sleep troubles or experiencing a few nights of poor sleep is normal, primarily because in today’s society we all have to deal with enormous stress on a daily basis. Dr. Sateia recommends preventing occasional sleepless nights and poor sleep by improving your sleep habits.
10 Best Prescription Sleep Pills for Insomnia
In some cases, doctors will prescribe medications to treat insomnia. All insomnia medications are taken shortly before bed. It is strongly recommended not to drive after taking prescribed insomnia drugs because the medication makes you feel sleepy. Also, to avoid sleeping pills side effects, you should always take them as your doctor recommended it. For best effect, all prescription drugs should be used in combination with healthy sleep practices.
|GENERIC NAME||US BRAND NAME||DOSAGE||INDUCES SLEEP||IMPROVES SLEEP MAINTENANCE||ABUSE POTENTIAL|
|Zolpidem||Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo||5,10 mg tablets||yes||no||yes|
|Ambien CR||6.25, 12.5 mg tablets||yes||yes||yes|
|Eszopiclone||Lunesta||1,2,3 mg tablets||yes||yes||yes|
|Zaleplon||Sonata||5,10 mg capsules||yes||no||yes|
|Ramelteon||Rozerem||8 mg tablets||yes||no||no|
|Suvorexant||Belsomra||10 mg tablets||yes||yes||unknown|
|Doxepin||Silenor||3,6 mg tablets||yes||yes||yes|
|Estazolam||ProSom||1,2 mg tablets||yes||yes||yes|
In some cases, doctors will prescribe medications to treat insomnia. All insomnia medications are taken shortly before bed. It is strongly recommended not to drive after taking insomnia drugs because the medication makes you feel sleepy. For best effect, all prescription drugs should be used in combination with healthy sleep practices.
Prescription drugs can be expensive so using a discount site such as Pharma Quotes or Goodrx will save you up to 75% off.
1. Zolpidem ( Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo)
Zolpidem is a Z-drug (along with zaleplon and eszopiclone/zopiclone) that works differently from benzodiazepine drugs, but still acts on the same benzodiazepine receptors in the brain to induce sleepiness.
Ambien is a sedative-hipnotic sleep drug that ensures you fall asleep and stay asleep during the entire night. Zolpidem is considered one of the strongest sleeping pills, therefore it should be taken only when you are diagnosed with chronic insomnia and you cannot get a full night’s sleep. In case you need short-term treatment of insomnia, you can use an oral sleeping spray called Zolpimist.
2. Zolpidem (Ambien CR)
In case you suffer from sleep maintenance insomnia, you may need to use high powered sleeping tablets. So, instead of Ambien pills, you could use Ambien CR. This is simply the extended release version of the sleep drug Ambien. Ambien CR is a two-layered medication – the first layer is gradually absorbed to help you fall asleep, while the second layer is released faster to assist you in staying asleep during the entire night.
3. Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
Lunesta is a hypnotic that induces sleep and helps you to fall asleep quickly, and stay asleep for 7 to 8 hours. It can be used both for short term and long term treatment of insomnia. Eszopiclone is a very strong sleep drug that should always be taken in smaller doses. The FDA recommends the starting dose no more than 1mg.
It is important to keep in mind that this sleep drug may negatively interact with other medications. If your doctor prescribes Luneta to you, it is vital to let him know if you are taking meds such as Nizoral to treat seizueres, antidepressants such as Rifadin or any anti-anxiety drugs.
Unlike Ambien and Sonata, which have been proven to act on benzodiazepine receptors, the precise action mechanism of Lunesta remains unknown. We know that its hypnotic effect interacts with GABA receptors that are located near benzodiazepine receptors. Due to the strength of this hypnotic effect, Lunesta has a high risk for drug abuse.
Lunesta has been approved by the FDA for long-term use of six months or more. Long-term clinical trials indicate that Lunesta does not increase tolerance, but patients should still remain careful. This sleep drug is among the best prescription sleep pills because it initiates sleep and also prevents nighttime waking.
4. Zaleplon (Sonata)
Zalepion is also prescription-based Z-drug that is used for treating sleeping onset insomnia. It is not recommended to use this drug if you have sleep maintenance insomnia because it stays active in the body for only a short amount of time. Since it stays active only for a short amount of time, it doesn’t cause drowsiness in the morning.
Sonata is typically used to treat short-term sleep onset insomnia. The drug is typically used for 7 to 10 days. If Sonata is used for more than recommended, it can lead to side effects such as memory and concentration problems, irritability, depression, anxiety, headache, agitation and behavioral changes.
Zalepion negatively interacts with seizuere medications, muscle relaxants and medicines for treating narcotic pain, depression and anxiety (such as Zoloft, Prozac and Sarafem).
5. Ramelteon (Rozerem)
This sleep drug works differently than the others. It targets the hormone melatonin, which play a vital role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Unlike most prescription pills, it doesn’t depress the central nervous system. It is prescribed to patients who have trouble falling asleep. Since Rozerem doesn’t cause abuse or dependence it can be prescribed for long-term use.
6. Suvorexant (Belsomra)
Belsomra is another unique sleep drug that works differently from others. As Rozerem targets melatonine, Belsomra affects a chemical in the brain called orexin. Orexin, also known as hypocretin, is a neuropeptide that regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite. Some researchers have found out that orexin deficiency may be the cause of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive sleepiness and sudden “sleep attacks”.
Doctors recommend Belsomra because it is not addictive or habit-forming. It is FDA approved to bot sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia. Side effects of this drug are feeling sleepy the following day.
7. Doxepin (Silenor)
Silenor is used to treat sleep problems such as insomnia. It should help you stay asleep longer and prevent you from waking up during the night. Doxepin belongs to a class of antidepressant drugs known as tricyclic antidepressant. This medication works by blocking histamine receptors in the brain. It is very important to keep in mind to take this sleep drug only if you intend to get full 7 or 8 hours of sleep. The medication is very strong and it will make you feel drowsy the next day.
8. Triazolam (Halcion)
Halcion is primarily used as a sedative to treat patients with severe insomnia. This sleeping drug is very strong and the daily dose should never exceed 0.5 mg. This sleeping pill should be taken only if the patient pans to sleep for the next seven to eight hours. The drug is mostly used for short-term treatment of insomnia. It mustn’t be taken more than 3 weeks.
Since trizolam causes drowsiness and exhaustion the next day, it is not recommended for people who have a job that requires them to get up early in the morning. It is also not suitable for individuals whose jobs are to operate vehicles or heavy machinery
9. Temazepam (Restoril)
Restoril is a sleeping pill that is used to treat both sleep-onset and sleep-maintenance insomnia. The recommended daily dosage is 7.5 mg, although maximum dosage is 30 mg.
This medicine is used for short-term insomnia treatment. Restoril is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Convention of Psychotropic Substances, meaning it carries a high risk of abuse and dependency.
The drug works fast and the results can be seen after one week. However, since these pills are created to induce sleepiness for seven to eight hours, in case you wake up earlier, you will have troubles remembering or concentrating on things until the effect completely wears off.
10. Estazolam (ProSom)
ProSom is used as a short-term insomnia medication. It can treat both sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia. It is also often used to induce sleep before medical operations.
Maximum dosage for adult patients is 2 mg per day, but most patients find 1 mg or 0.5 mg sufficient to fall asleep. This sleep drug causes a severe hangover effect the next day, making it difficult or impossible to work or operate a vehicle.
It interacts aggressively with other medications, such as sodium oxybate and clozapine. Some people who take ProSom report severe mood changes and side effects related to their psychological well-being. The most common side effects are agitation, aggression and other behavioral changes.
Prescription Sleeping Pills to Avoid
Among prescription pills that should be avoided are benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and antidepressants. Benzodiazepines and barbiturates are considered not exactly the worst prescription drugs, but ones that are most habit forming harmful for your health.
Benzodiazepines are primarily used to treat anxiety. However, due to their soporific effects, they also work well as sleep aids. As the name suggest, these pills act on benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, similar as previously mentioned z-drugs do. However, benzodiazepines carry a much higher risk for dependency and potential abuse.
They are not recommended for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea because they can cause pronounced muscle relaxation and make the symptoms of sleep apnea worse. These meds work quickly; the results are typically noticed within 10 days.
Doctors and sleep specialists urge patients to gradually wean themselves off the drug. In case of sudden interruption, the drug can cause depression and anxiety and well as physical withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Benzodiazepines such as emazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion) are useful when you want the medication to stay longer in your system. Apart from insomnia, these drugs also treat sleepwalking and night terrors. Since these medicines are very strong, they may cause you to feel sleepy during day. Benzodiazepines also cause dependence, meaning after some time, you won’t be able to fall asleep without them.
Barbiturates are sedative-hipnotic drugs that are also sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia. These drugs work by that depressing the central nerves system and causing sedation. Short or long-acting barbiturates are often prescribed as sedatives or sleeping pills. However, they were mostly used as sleep aids in the past. Nowadays, these medicines are replaced by newer meds that do not cause problems with memory and attention. Today, these hypnotic drugs are used as anesthesia.
Some antidepressant drugs, such as Trazodone (Desyrel), Amitriptyline (Elavil), and Doxepin (Sinequan) are used to treat sleeplessness and anxiety. They are prescribed when doctors think depression could be the cause of your insomnia. Since these drugs do not cause addiction, they can also be prescribed if you are at risk from side effect of other, stronger traditional sleeping pills.
Trazodone products have recently become a popular choice because some clinical trials suggest it doesn’t cause addiction. Developing tolerance and becoming addicted are two most significant problems doctors have to keep in mind when prescribing sleep drugs. However, there is still no clear evidence to support the claim that trazodone doesn’t cause addiction or that it’s safer than other sleep pills. Also, it’s not approved by the FDA to treat insomnia.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine doesn’t recommend diphenhydramine, trazodone, and tiagabine for any type of chronic insomnia. Diphenhydramine is an ingredient in drugs such as Benadryl, and Unisom. Trazodone is not recommended because it is an antidepressant. Tiagabine is an anticonvulsant, and it has no effect in treating or alleviating insomnia. Unfortunately, these meds are widely purchased over-the-counter in the US to treat sleep problems. Some pharmacists even recommend them. Trazodone and tiagabine products are also often prescribed off-label.
The Legitimacy of Clinical Trials
Sleep experts and doctors warn us that recommendations based on data from clinical trials don’t have to be the final word on how to use or prescribe a sleep drug. Drug companies fund most pharmaceutical studies, and in most cases, they aren’t enough to make a firm conclusion. Due to this, physicians classify their recommendation as weak. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these drugs have a weak effect or that they don’t work very well. It indicates that more research and data is needed to be confident in the quality of the drug, especially when it’s used to treat delicate and complex health conditions such as insomnia.
How to Check the Legitimacy of Clinical Trials
The National Institutes of Health Clinical Trial Registry at http://clinicaltrials.gov. is a website that lists more than 200,000 trials in 190 countries all over the world. Studies can be found based on the condition or disease that was treated or used medication or therapy. Each entry includes a trial description, purpose, eligibility criteria and other valuable information.
The World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform is also a valuable resource that provides information about clinical trials across the world.
Sleeping Pills Recommended to Seniors
Since many older adults also have problems to fall asleep or stay asleep during the entire night, self-reported studies suggest that many older adults use sleeping pills chronically. the most common sleep issue experienced by seniors is insomnia. However, in seniors, insomnia is often secondary rather than a primary disorder. Another problem for the elderly is that their sleep architecture changes as they age, and they experience lower amounts of deep sleep and more amounts of light sleep.
Over-the-counter sleep pills for treating insomnia in the elderly may not be the best choice because older adults may feel the side effects of the drugs much faster. Antihistamine based OTC drugs (Sominex, Nytol, Unisom) and pain relievers such as Advil and Tylenol will help you sleep through the night but it’s important to keep in mind that these meds have adverse side effects that you are going to feel much faster than a young adult would. Therefore, it is best to use OTC sleep aids only for a short period of time, when your quality of life is severely affected, and when nothing else worked to treat your problem.
Apart from using Advil, Tylenol, Unisom and similar, many older adults opt for combination sleep aid or natural sleep supplements such as melatonin or valerian supplements.
Sleeping Pills often Recommended to Children
Around 25% of children experience sleep problems, and sometimes doctors sometimes prescribe them sleeping pills as a solution. Some parents also opt to get sleep aid for children over the counter. Giving OTC sleep pills to children is not recommended because they are not made for kids and there is a severe risk of experiencing adverse side effects or overdose.
Despite there is no prescription sleeping aid approved in the US to treat insomnia in children, many doctors prescribe antihistamines to induce sleep such as diphenhydramine or even hypnotic sleep aids. Sleep pills for children often include antihistamines such as Nytol, Sominex, and Benadryl Allergy. When it comes to hypnotic sleep aids and prescription pills, some doctors prescribe Zolpidem (Ambien). Lastly, some physicians recommend taking melatonin supplements.
If your child’s doctor prescribes them a medicine like melatonin or a sedative for sleep, they will probably suggest that the sleep aid is used for a short time, and in combination with behavior strategies that should improve your overall child’s sleep habits. However, it is still vital to ask if the drug will really help solve your child’s sleep problem and check if there are any non-drug solutions that could help.
Recommended Supplements for Chronic Insomnia
In the guidelines, there are three dietary supplements included – melatonin, tryptophan, and valerian. They are not recommended for treating insomnia. However, they can alleviate some of the condition’s symptoms. Doctors warn patients to keep in mind that most sleep supplements are not regulated as strictly as drugs. That makes it rather hard to recommend them with certainty.
In most cases, melatonin supplements don’t even contain melatonin, while valerian supplements don’t contain valerian root. When it comes to tryptophan products, they supposedly contain another substance that stimulates the production of tryptophan. Before buying a sleep supplement, check which ingredients are listed on the label.
If you want to use natural sleep aids, it is best to consume it its natural state. For example, drink valerian tea or eat tryptophan-rich foods.
5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Sleep Aid
The most important factors you should consider when choosing a sleep aid are safety, strength, addiction, overdoses, and ingredients.
1. Safety: Before opting for sleep drugs, no matter whether they are prescription or OTC, you must consider how safe they are and what they contain. Learn how different ingredients and substances commonly found in sleep drugs can affect your health and well-being. If you are thinking about taking an OTC sleep aid, consult with your doctor first to prevent potential allergic reactions to its contents. Make sure other meds you are taken won’t interact with it, and carefully think about how will the side effect of the drug affect you.
You should consult with your doctor about using an over the counter sleep aid to prevent an allergic reaction to the contents of a sleep aid. Be sure to follow the directions, especially if you take other medications. You want to consider how the side effects will affect you.
2. Effectiveness: Depending on how bad your insomnia is, you should take a look at how strong the dosage of a sleep aid is. No matter how severe your condition is, you should always start slow and gradually increase the dosage if the lower ones don’t work. Your physician can help you understand what dosage works best to fall asleep fast without feeling the adverse side effect the next day.
3. Addiction: Unfortunately, many OTC and prescription pills cause addiction. To avoid addiction, you must consult with your doctor in a timely manner. Signs of addiction are inability to fall asleep on your own, craving medications and trying to quit multiple times without success.
4. Overdoses: It is very important to know how strong your medication is in order to prevent overdosing. To avoid overdosing, it is crucial not to mix the sleep aid with other medications or alcohol.
Signs of overdosing in patients can be noticed hallucinations, confusion, sleepiness, slowed heart rate, seizures, nausea and vomiting.
5. Natural ingredients: The best sleeping aid is the ones that consist of natural ingredients. If you are planning to use an OTC sleep aid, opt for an herbal remedy or a combination sleep aid.
When to Use Sleep Pills?
Dr. Namni Goel, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says that sleep drugs such as Ambien or Lunesta should only be used for a short period of time, for example, for a few nights or two weeks top. Ambien and Lunesta can help you get some rest if you have recently gone through a lot of stress or if you are stressing about a big event, such as your wedding. Taking a pill once in a few months is not problematic. However, using sleep drugs on a weekly or monthly basis or for an extended period of time is very dangerous and might severely jeopardize your physical and mental health. The worst thing is that it definitely won’t solve your sleeping problem.
Sleeping pills should be used for an extended period of time only if you are diagnosed with chronic insomnia. Physicians recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) before sleep medications. It is recommended to take sleep drugs only when CBT doesn’t work, or you are unable to participate in it. CBT-I is also known as talk therapy and aims to identify and correct some behaviors that may lead to sleep issues. It is considered the best, as well as the healthiest long-term treatment for insomnia.
No matter what medication you use, its effectiveness wears off over time and when you stop using it. When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, the effect persists over time and also after treatment is finished. When making a decision what sleep aid to use, you must take into account multiple factors; among the most important are medication costs, side effects, symptoms, and health history. Although there are certain guidelines we can follow, this is a very personal decision between a doctor and his patient. Getting deep, restful, and rejuvenating sleep isn’t going to come from a pill. You have to be willing to make some major changes in your lifestyle if you want to catch some quality shuteye.