What about Sleeping Pills? Insomnia Medication Explained
The drugs most commonly prescribed for insomnia are benzodiazepines, benzodiazepine receptor agonists, and melatonin. There are side effects with each of these prescription medications and it is important not take any of these medicines in larger amounts than prescribed or for a longer time period than advised by your doctor.
Benzodiazepines include drugs such as temazepam and nitrazepam. These have a sedative effect and help to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. They reduce anxiety and relax the muscles. This can be helpful if the insomnia is associated with pain. However, it can interfere with breathing and worsen conditions such as sleep apnea. One of the major problems with benzodiazepines is that you can quickly develop a tolerance, meaning that you need a higher and higher dose to get the same effects. They also carry the risk of dependence and should only be used for short-term insomnia relief.
Another class of medications are benzodiazepine receptor agonists include zolpidem (Ambien, Intermezzo, Stilnox). These work in a similar way to benzodiazepines but have a lower risk of dependence which means that they are more often prescribed for long-term use. They do not effect anxiety or relax the muscles, making them more suitable for sleep apnea sufferers. Some people have reported sleep-walking and even sleep-driving with this medicine. Other adverse reactions include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, light headness, depression, and rebound insomnia. Speak to your doctor about the risks. This medicine should not be taken by people who have a history of depression, lung problems, liver disease or kidney disease.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally secreted by the body that induces sleepiness. Melatonin and melatonin receptor agonists can help to treat insomnia but need to be taken regularly to have any real benefits. It is best used in cases of jet lag or where your sleep-wake cycle is out of sync with the day-and-night cycle of your environment. In Australia, melatonin is a prescription medicine. While it has less side effects generally, it can create morning headaches and dizziness. People with immune disorders, restless leg syndrome, epilepsy and who are currently pregnant should be cautious about using melatonin.
Over the counter remedies for insomnia usually contain an antihistamine. These have sedative effects but can also cause daytime drowsiness, dry mouth and have been associated with an increased risk of dementia.