If your insomnia makes it hard to function during the day because you are sleepy and tired, your healthcare provider may recommend a medical treatment for insomnia. For acute insomnia, treatment usually includes using sleeping pills for a limited time. The rapid-onset, short-acting medications now available avoid many of the earlier problems with medications, like feeling drowsy or groggy the following day.
Some examples of insomnia medicines include:
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta®)
- Zolpidem (Ambien®, Ambien CR®, Zolpimist™, Edluar™)
- Zaleplon (Sonata®)
- Ramelteon (Rozerem®).
For chronic insomnia treatment, medications may also be recommended, although the long-term use of sleeping pills for chronic insomnia is controversial.
Anyone taking any sleeping pill should be under the supervision of a physician, who will closely evaluate the effectiveness of the medication and minimize the side effects. In general, these drugs are prescribed at the lowest dose and for the shortest duration needed to relieve the sleep-related symptoms. For some of these medicines, the dose must be gradually lowered as the medicine is discontinued because, if stopped abruptly, it can cause insomnia to occur again for a night or two.
Some medications may be less effective after several weeks of nightly use, and long-term safety and effectiveness has not yet been established. Side effects of sleeping pills (both prescription and over-the-counter) can also be a problem.
The use of over-the-counter sleep medicines is not usually recommended for the treatment of insomnia.