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The Pros and Cons of Medication For Insomnia

In an effort to improve medication for insomnia, more and more research is carried out every year into the symptoms and causes of the sleeping problem, as it is always better to prevent a disorder than to have to treat it.

Many diagnosed insomnia cases stem from psychological problems, and in this case a doctor would generally prescribe therapy over medication. As well as therapy, there are also different at-home methods of treatment and herbal options available.

Stronger, prescription medication cannot be purchased over the counter and must be prescribed by a medical professional. However, this may depend on which country you live in and how your health system works. Insomnia medicine is not usually given to people under the age of 18 because of the side effects. 

Many adults will also be advised to try other options first. For example, many people report to have benefited from acupuncture for insomnia. It is important to remember that sleeping pills are similar to other medications in that they should not be shared with friends, family or colleagues. If you have been prescribed a drug to aid sleep and it has helped, do not give this medication to a friend complaining about similar issues.

medication for insomniaMost types of over-the-counter treatments for sleep deprivation will either contain a type of antihistamine or herbs for insomnia as a supplement. Antihistamines are commonly known for treating allergies or controlling allergic reactions. They work against the histamine chemical produced in the body. 

One of the side effects of the drug is drowsiness and fatigue. This is why it is used in many over-the-counter insomnia medicines. However, it is not advised to use an antihistamine you have been given for an allergy as a long term solution for sleep deprivation.

Most Commonly Prescribed Medication for Insomnia

Zaleplon is a sedative-hypnotic drug used primarily to treat insomnia and for those who have trouble sleeping in general. As with many sleeping pills, it is usually only advised to be taken for two weeks due to its high dependency and possibility of withdrawal symptoms. 

This medication can cause day time drowsiness and therefore some activities will have to be put on hold e.g. working with heavy machinery, driving and drinking alcohol. Alcohol can affect lots of medication in different ways and it is best to avoid it if possible when trying to improve your sleep.


A popular form of medication for insomnia are benzodiazepines (also known as benzos). These psychoactive drugs have been available since the 1960's and come in many different forms. They work as a sedative and have anti-anxiety, muscle relaxant and hypnotic effects. 


It is generally only prescribed on a short term basis of two to four weeks, due to the side effects associated with it. The risk of dependence is high and, if taken for a long time, it can result in the body becoming immune to its effects. A person taking this medication will sleep for longer time periods and wake up less often. 

medication for insomniaCertain types of benzodiazepine, such as diazepam, are used for longer periods. They work well to combat sleep deprivation but can leave a person feeling very tired and groggy when they wake up in the morning, and are therefore not recommended unless the symptoms are severe. 

One form of a tricyclic antidepressant, known medically as doxepin, is made in oral tablet form and as a cream. The topical cream is used for skin irritations and the tablet is prescribed to sufferers of anxiety, depression and insomnia. This type of insomnia medicine, and its uses, varies in different countries. 

Doxepin works by acting on nerve cells in the brain and stopping noradrenaline and serotonin being absorbed. These two neurotransmitters have different tasks but when they are released and absorbed into nerve cells, they have an impact on a person's mood. Doxepin works to prevent the neurotransmitters reabsorbing, as it is believed that this can affect depression.

Rozerem, known medically as ramelteon, is a sleep agent taken as an oral tablet to aid patients suffering from sleep-onset insomnia. It is a melatonin receptor agonist that works in a similar way to melatonin. 

Melatonin and serotinin are hormones produced in the brain to regulate sleep. At night it is triggered by darkness. Any overexposure to bright or artificial light will upset the natural balance of melatonin in the brain.

Eszopiclone is a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic that can be used as a mild medication for insomnia and is mostly prescribed to older patients with sleep deprivation. There has been much debate over the effectiveness of the drug, as many studies comparing it with placebos have shown little results in its favor.  

Zolpidem is an insomnia medicine in the form of a sedative used to help you fall asleep and stay that way throughout the night. It is mainly used to treat people who have problems settling and falling asleep at night, and can control sleep maintenance if distributed in a controlled release. This medication is not recommended for people under the age of 18, or during pregnancy. 

If you are visiting your doctor with complaints about insomnia, it is vital that they are aware of any illnesses you may have, or have had in the past. Your own doctor will have details on your medical history but this will not be the case if you have recently moved to a new area or country.

medication for insomniaAntidepressants are used to treat a wide range of psychological disorders under the umbrella of major depressive disorders.  They work to regulate mood by balancing the brain's chemicals. 

There is a wide range of antidepressants available to treat different disorders and the drug can often be prescribed for insomnia. In some circumstances this may be a cost related issue, because insomnia medication with brand names are more expensive than generic antidepressants. 

Most medication for insomnia is not advised for long term usage due to high dependency and other side effects - such as rebound insomnia - that could have a negative impact on overall health. Some antidepressants are known to cause the exact opposite effect, stimulating insomnia instead of treating it. For example, there is a clear connection between Effexor and insomnia.

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