Prescription Sleep Medications

prescription sleep medication

Prescription sleep medications can help people with insomnia and related sleep issues get the rest they need to experience better health and improved vitality. 

Doctor-prescribed sleep aids are just one choice in an arsenal of sleep medicines that include over-the-counter medications, natural supplements, herbal treatments, and aromatherapy.  

Prescription sleeping pills are most often prescribed for cases of chronic insomnia. Insomnia medications are generally controlled substances and carry risks of dependency and side effects. Whenever you are prescribed sleep medicines, know that they are best used on a short term basis to avoid potential dangers and dependency. 

An older class of sleep medications called benzodiazepines (also known as BRAs' or hypnotics) include sleep aids such as Xanax, Ativan and Prosom. These sleep drugs have their place, but can be heavily sedating and addictive.

Note: If you suspect you are addicted to sleeping pills during your course of treatment, talk with your healthcare provider right away. He or she will advise you on options for overcoming your reliance. If your circumstances are multi-faceted and involve substance abuse, addiction treatment programs may be recommended. 

Newer options in prescription sleep aids have less severe side effects, although they can still be habit-forming or addictive. The most popular and widely used sleep medications in this category are Lunesta, Ambien, Sonata, Restoril and Rozerem.

In addition, if you have special health circumstances, your doctor may prescribe a customized pharmaceutical solution to address your sleep issues. This type of personalized medication is usually only available at specialty pharmacies. Ask your doctor for an apothecary referral or consider doing a web search for "compounding pharmacy near me" to find a specialty dispensary in your area.

Insomnia sufferers usually fall into two separate groups: those who have trouble falling asleep, and those who fall asleep easily but wake up repeatedly during the night.

Addressing your Sleep Issues

To get the best possible results, it's useful to know which sleep medications are designed to help you fall asleep, and which do the best job of helping you stay asleep.

When you consult with your doctor about your sleep problems, which you should always do before taking any type of sleep remedies (including over-the-counter medicine and natural aids), be sure to discuss other medicines and supplements you're currently taking. After assessing your physical health and sleep issues, he or she will be in the best position to recommend medicine for your individual needs.

Following is a brief overview of five of the most popular sleeping pills. Be sure to discuss your prescribed medication with your doctor in addition to reading the information below.


  • Active ingredient - Eszopiclone.

  • Works quickly and effects can last at least 7 to hours

  • Most common side effects include light-headedness, dizziness, headache, unpleasant taste in your mouth, slowed reaction time, poor co-ordination and drowsiness that can last into the following day.

  • Can be addictive and withdrawal symptoms can occur (include anxiety, muscle cramps, sweating, nausea and more). Can cause mood/behavioral changes, hallucinations, agitation and other similar issues.

  • DO NOT TAKE LUNESTA IF: you're suffering from depression (or have a history of depression), or you have liver or respiratory problems, any condition that affects your metabolism, or if you are breastfeeding.

  • Avoid alcohol with this medication.

  • Lunesta is one of the few sleep medications that can help people with both categories of insomnia as described earlier.

  • Usual adult dosage is 1mg. Both 2mg and 3mg tablets are also available.


  • Active ingredient - Zolpidem.

  • Long acting, effects can last for at least 7 - 8 hours, and to begin with you may even feel drowsy during the next day.

  • Be cautious about driving or doing anything involving hand-eye co-ordination, quick reactions or a degree of alertness the next day until you know how (and how long) you will be affected!

  • Can be addictive. Minor withdrawal effects can occur, these may include nervousness, light-headedness, insomnia, nausea).

  • Most common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness,diarrhea and a hung-over feeling the next day.

  • More serious, but less common, side effects may include mood swings, behavioral problems, abnormal thought patterns, anxiety, memory loss and other similar issues.

  • Avoid alcohol with this medication.

  • DO NOT TAKE AMBIEN IF: you're breastfeeding. Consult a doctor before taking Ambien if you're pregnant, or have liver problems. Not established as safe for children.

  • Normal adult dosage is 10mg. The elderly and people with certain medical conditions may need the 5mg tablet.

  • Ambien CR is also available. This is an extended-release version and can be especially helpful for people whose insomnia causes them to wake up regularly during the night.


  • Active ingredient - Zalepon.

  • Acts very quickly, but lasts for a very short time; usually around 4 hours.

  • Must be taken at bedtime only or hallucinations, loss of memory and behavioral issues such as 'sleep driving' or 'sleep eating' (undertaking an action such as driving a car or eating without being aware of it, or remembering it later) may occur.

  • Most common side effects include dizziness, light-headedness, constipation, dry mouth, headache, weakness, poor co-ordination and drowsiness.

  • DO NOT TAKE SONATA IF: you have liver problems, are suffering from depression or sleep apnea, have respiratory problems, myasthenia gravis, have addiction problems or are sensitive or allergic to Aspirin or to coloring agent FD&C Yellow No. 5.

  • Normal adult dosage is 10mg, in seniors 5mg is recommended. Don't take if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.


  • Can take up to 30 minutes to take effect, but last for a relatively short time.

  • Comparatively low risk of addiction or dependency.

  • Most common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, and the potential for upper respiratory tract infection. Can cause unusual thinking or behavior/actions

  • DO NOT TAKE ROZEREM IF: you have liver disease or sleep apnea, or if you are suffering from depression or have suicidal thoughts (or have done so in the past), or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Avoid alcohol when taking this sleep medication.

  • Not suitable for children.

  • Usual adult dosage is 8mg.


  • Relatively fast acting, effects last for at least 7 - 8 hours.

  • One of the older class of sleep medications, often used to treat anxiety. Can be addictive, and temporary 'rebound insomnia' can occur for a few nights after you stop taking it.

  • If you take Restoril for any length of time and then stop suddenly withdrawal symptoms can occur (include muscle cramps, sweating, insomnia, vomiting).

  • Most common side effects include drowsiness, headache, nervousness, dizziness, nausea, a hung-over feeling the following day.

  • DO NOT TAKE RESTORIL IF: you are suffering from depression (or have a history of depression), have kidney or liver problems, chronic lung disease or respiratory issues, if you have a history of alcohol or drug dependency, or you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Avoid alcohol, antidepressants, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, and narcotic painkillers

  • Usual adult dosage is 15mg.

Other Options for Sleep Help

Sleep medications are just one of the possibilities when it comes to treating insomnia. In addition to prescription sleep aids and over-the-counter sleep medicine, there are natural products such as Melatonin and other herbal/natural sleep aids.

In addition, there are a host of behavioral and lifestyle changes that can help you get a better nights rest. These include relaxation techniques,aromatherapy, and adopting more healthy sleep habits.

Related Information - Sleep Medications

Over The Counter Sleep Aids
Natural Sleep Aids
Insomnia Medications
Overview of Sleep Remedies
Natural Cures For Insomnia

› Sleep Medications

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