For those patients who have consistent sleep problems that are having a profound or sustained impact on their lives, physicians may recommend the use of prescription sleeping medicines. Where prescription sleeping pills were once actually depression medications that were used for their sedative effects, the new class of sleeping pills works specifically on the sleep cycle rather than as a secondary effect. All of these drugs are much more powerful than any of the over the counter or natural remedies that are available, and it is important that people taking them understand the impact that they have on their bodies and brain functions: prescription sleeping aids interfere with your ability to concentrate, make informed decisions and react quickly, so tasks such as driving or operating heavy machinery should never be undertaken while they are active in your system.
Ambien, or its generic form zolpidem, is one of the most popular sleep aids. It is very effective at shortening the amount of time that it takes to fall asleep, but many patients have reported shortened sleep cycles, and that once they awaken in the middle of the night after having achieved sleep it is very difficult to return to sleep. As a result the manufacturer of Ambien has introduced an extended release version of the medication that has shown improvement. The active ingredient in Ambien is also available in a nasal spray form to help people fall asleep more easily. Ambien has been found to leave the system slowly, particularly in women, so patients are cautioned to make sure that they are completely alert the next morning before engaging in any potentially dangerous tasks such as driving.
Lunesta, or its generic form eszopiclone, has been shown to be a very effective and mild sleeping pill that helps insomnia sufferers fall asleep easily and stay asleep for a full eight hours. Patients who do not have seven to eight hours in which to sleep are warned away from this medicine, as it does not clear the system prior to that amount of time.
Sonata, or its generic form zaleplon, is unique in that it stays active in the body for a short amount of time. This means that unlike other sleeping aids, including over the counter antihistamines, it can be taken in the middle of the night after struggling to get to sleep, and it won’t leave you with dizziness or grogginess in the morning. It is not a good solution for those who have interrupted sleep.
Rozerem, or its generic form ramelteon, is an entirely different kind of sleep medication. It does not depress the system or have a sedative effect. Instead, it works to activate the sleep wake cycle and normalize it. Patients who have used Rozerem have shown no signs of it being habit forming.
Silenor, or its generic form doxepine, is specifically designed for those who are not able to remain asleep for the full sleep cycle. It is very carefully dosed based upon the patient’s physical characteristics, and is not recommended for patients who have less than eight hours in which to sleep.