Sleep Medications: How to Choose the Right One

Sleep medications

In the United States, more than a third of adults struggle to get enough sleep, and many turn to sleeping pills as a result. According to the CDC, 8.2 percent of adults in the United States have used a sleep aid at least four times in the previous week. 

Sleep aids include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements, many of which are marketed as “natural” sleep aids. There are many different types of drugs and compounds that affect the body in different ways. 

Every sleep medication has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s critical to understand how they work, what conditions they can help with, and how to use them safely. Working with a doctor to find the best sleep medication is necessary. A doctor can recommend a specific sleep aid based on your situation.

What Are The Types of Medications For Sleep?

Medications for sleep

Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements are the three main types of sleep medication. 

The categories differ in terms of the active ingredients they contain and how they work. Each category has its own set of rules and regulations, as well as different levels of accessibility.

Prescription Sleep Medication

Only pharmacies are allowed to sell prescription drugs, which needs to be ordered by a doctor for a specific patient. The FDA, which must approve any prescription drug based on its history of safety and efficacy in clinical trials, closely regulates these drugs. 

Every FDA-approved drug has a specific indication that outlines the medical conditions it is meant to treat. Doctors may prescribe a drug for other conditions after it has been approved for one indication, which is known as “off-label” use. 

The FDA has approved many prescription drugs to treat sleep problems, while others are used off-label to try to improve sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) works to develop guidelines for health professionals on the benefits and drawbacks of these drugs. 

Prescription sleep medications generally work by affecting brain chemicals involved in sleep and wakefulness regulation. The medication’s effects are determined by which chemicals are affected.

  • Hypnotics and Sedatives: Drugs like hypnotics and sedatives are designed to make people sleepy. Benzodiazepines were the first generation of prescription hypnotics for sleep problems. These drugs work by increasing the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a drowsiness-inducing chemical in the brain. A newer class of hypnotics, known as Z-drugs because of their medical names, has become more widely prescribed in recent years. These drugs increase GABA production in the same way that traditional benzodiazepines do, but in a different way that has been found to have fewer side effects. Most hypnotic drugs can be made to be fast-acting or slow-release, depending on whether a person has more trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. Other sedative drugs, such as barbiturates, may make people sleepy, but because of the risk of addiction and overdose, they are rarely used to treat sleeping problems.
  • Orexin Receptor Antagonists (ORA): Orexin receptor antagonists work by preventing orexin, a natural substance that promotes wakefulness, from acting. These drugs promote sleepiness by lowering orexin levels without the side effects associated with other hypnotics, such as headache, nausea, and short-term forgetfulness.
  • Melatonin Receptor Agonists (MRA): Melatonin is a hormone that the body makes on its own. It helps people sleep and keep their circadian rhythms stable. Prescription drugs such as melatonin receptor agonists mimic the effects of melatonin. It is usually used to help people who have trouble getting to sleep, but it can also be used for other things, too. A melatonin supplement that you can buy over the counter is not the same as this prescription drug that makes you sleep better.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants are medications that were initially developed to treat depression. Certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), have been shown to cause drowsiness in some individuals. As a result, antidepressants are occasionally prescribed to treat insomnia. The FDA has not specifically approved antidepressants for sleep problems, so this is an example of off-label use. Nonetheless, many people who suffer from depression also have sleep problems, and these medications may be prescribed to alleviate their symptoms.
See also  Sleep Aids - How to Get the Most Out of Your Nighttime

Over-The-Counter Sleep Medication 

OTC sleep medications can be purchased at pharmacies, drug stores, and many supermarkets without a prescription. Individual brands of over-the-counter medicines don’t need to be approved by the FDA, but the active ingredient in them does, and they must follow certain FDA rules.

There are a lot of OTC sleep medications. Most of these are antihistamines, which are used to treat allergic reactions. Antihistamines frequently induce sleepiness, which has resulted in their use as an over-the-counter sleep aid.

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements don’t work like prescription and over-the-counter drugs do. 

If you want to buy nutritional supplements, you don’t need a prescription. They can be found in pharmacies and drug stores, supermarkets, specialty stores, and online. 

Natural sleep aids, such as melatonin, kava, valerian, and other products, can be taken as supplements. Many sleep aids come in pill, liquid, or chewable form, and they have different ingredients and doses in each one, so they can help you sleep. 

For most dietary supplements, there isn’t enough research to show how good or bad they are. So, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine doesn’t recommend them for people who can’t sleep well.

See also Central Nervous System Stimulants: Everything You Need to Know

What Conditions Do These Sleep Aid Medications Address?

Conditions sleep aid medications address

Sleep aid medications are often used to treat insomnia or symptoms that are similar to insomnia. Insomnia is when a person can’t fall asleep or stay asleep even when they have a chance to do so. This often affects how a person thinks, feels, or acts the next day. 

See also  Sleep Disorder Pills: What You Need to Know

Drugs that make people sleepy or keep them asleep all night, like hypnotic-sedative medications, are usually meant to help people with insomnia get a good night’s sleep. 

When a person’s internal clock doesn’t line up with the day-night cycle, they may have a sleep disorder called circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Some sleep medications, like melatonin, can also be used to treat these disorders. It may help people who have jet lag from flying or shift work disorder because they work at night. 

Other types of sleep disorders, like parasomnias or restless leg syndrome, may be treated with other types of drugs that aren’t meant to make people fall asleep. These drugs are meant to treat the symptoms of these conditions, not make them fall asleep.

Risks of Sleep Medication

Risks of Sleep Medication

Sleep medications may help you get more sleep, stay asleep through the night, and keep your sleep schedule the same. Improved sleep can make you less tired during the day. They may help you sleep better, which could make it easier to make healthy choices. 

The possible side effects of sleep aids depend on the type of drug and the person taking it. It can be dangerous to take pills to help you sleep. 

Even if a drug is not meant to be used for a long time, a person can become addicted to it. After taking the drug for a long time, abruptly stopping could make your sleep problems or withdrawal symptoms worse. 

Many medications to sleep, including hypnotics, can cause tolerance, which can make them less effective and worsen side effects if the dosage is increased. Some of the side effects of sleep medication include:

See also  Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: What You Need to Know

Next-day drowsiness: The effects of some sleeping pills can last for a long time, even when a person wakes up the next day. Many people who take sleep aids report having trouble concentrating or feeling groggy the next day. 

Sleep aids, like Ambien, have been reported in some cases to make people drive, eat, and do other things while they aren’t fully awake. 

Disrupted sleep quality: Many medications change the chemicals that go into sleep, which can change how much a person sleeps and how their sleep goes. Drugs may make it hard to get a good night’s sleep and move through the stages of sleep normally. Some sedatives can make it more likely that you will have obstructive sleep apnea, which is a breathing disorder that makes it hard to sleep. 

Drug Interactions: Natural sleep aids and other drugs can have a lot of interactions with each other. These interactions can make or break the effectiveness of drugs and may have unintended consequences. 

Other side effects: Almost all drugs have side effects that aren’t always clear. If you’re taking hypnotics, for example, you may have a higher chance of dying, which could be because of other health problems, accidents, or depression.


Sleep is important to our health. It helps our bodies and minds stay strong and keep us alert. The best way to get the rest you need is to sleep at a time when you’re most tired.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends a regular sleep schedule, which means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. It also recommends getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

Sleep medications are used to help people fall asleep, stay asleep, and get a good night’s sleep. Some of the most common medications used to treat sleep problems are hypnotics and sedatives. They are meant to be used for short periods of time, and not for long-term use. 

Most sleep aids can cause side effects, like next-day drowsiness or disrupted sleep quality. There may be other side effects, like sleepwalking, hallucinations, or drug dependence.

Naturally, if you take any medications, you should tell your doctor about them. 

If you’re taking a sleep aid, you should talk to your doctor before you stop taking it. Your doctor may be able to help you find other options for sleep that don’t have as many side effects.

See also Sleep Disorder Pills: What You Need to Know

Recent Posts

apnea apnea treatment barbiturates Central Nervous System Central Nervous System Stimulants CNS Daytime Sleepiness depressants Drug Excessive Daytime Sleepiness hormone Know Medications Melatonin Melatonin benefits modafinil modafinil dosage modafinil effectiveness modafinil side effects narcolepsy narcolepsy causes narcolepsy symptoms narcolepsy treatment Natural remedy sedatives sleep aids sleep apnea sleep better sleep disorder Sleep Disorder Pills sleeping pills Sleep Medications Stimulants Supplement

Recent Comments