Many different medications can be used to help people sleep. Most of them work better at helping people fall asleep than at preventing them from awakening in the night. They can be habit-forming and have a risk of misuse and dependency. In addition, they often cause side effects such as grogginess the next day and can lead to memory problems in older adults. For these reasons, doctors do not recommend long term use of sleeping medication.
Sleeping medication can be helpful when people are experiencing short-term insomnia, especially if they have anxiety or other mental health problems that may contribute to it. However, the first course of treatment for most people is behavioral therapy and support. If these do not help, a doctor might consider prescribing a sleep medication.
Melatonin — Exogenous melatonin (Circadin) may be useful for some sleep-onset insomnia. It probably works by acting as an agonist at melatonin receptors, including those in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN; master circadian rhythm timekeeper), although it does not appear to improve sleep maintenance .
Understanding Sleeping Medication: Types, Effects, and Safe Usage
Sedating anti-histamines — These medicines are commonly used to treat allergies. They can also induce drowsiness and can be taken to help people fall asleep. They are usually not recommended for long term use, as they can have some serious side effects.
Antidepressants — Amitriptyline (Elavil) and trazodone (Desyrel) can help some people sleep by changing the way that the brain responds to neurotransmitters. However, they do not appear to be effective for most cases of insomnia, and can cause next-day grogginess and increased suicidal thoughts in some people.