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What are Different Types of Sleeping Pills?

By Lori Smith
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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There are various types of sleeping pills available to treat insomnia, from over-the-counter options to powerful prescription-strength medications. Depending on the cause of the sleeplessness, the type of drug most appropriate for treatment may vary. Sedative hypnotics and benzodiazepines are among the most common insomnia medications prescribed by physicians, whereas diphenhydramine can generally be purchased without a doctor's order. Most sleeping pills are recommended for short-term use because there is often a risk of addiction associated with them.

Prescription sleep aids may be recommended for a number of reasons, including insomnia caused by anxiety. Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, may be prescribed when sleep disturbances occur due to extreme stress, nervousness, and anxiety. This medicine is frequently offered to individuals following a traumatic event. Benzodiazepines also act as muscle relaxers. Its calming effect can allow victims of stress to relax at night and get some much needed rest.

Sedative-hypnotics, like zolpidem and eszopiclone, can also be obtained with a doctor’s prescription. These fast-acting drugs usually induce extreme drowsiness within 30 minutes of administration. This allows the individual to fall asleep fast and, in most cases, feel refreshed the next day.

These drugs generally have an amnesiac quality, especially in the early stages of treatment. For example, some people who begin taking zolpidem discover that they sleepwalk after taking the medicine, or engage in conversations with others. The next day, however, these individuals do not usually recall the event or the discussion that may have taken place while they were under the influence of the medication.

Some people prefer non-prescription strength remedies for the temporary relief of their insomnia. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that makes most people very drowsy. For this reason, it is frequently used as an effective sleep aid. In fact, many over-the-counter products of this type contain the ingredient.

Some medications combine diphenhydramine with pain relievers, such as acetaminophen. This may be especially helpful for people who suffer from insomnia as a result of — or in addition to — muscle and joint pain. Certain medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, cause pain along with chronic fatigue. If pain is one of the reasons a person has trouble sleeping, over-the-counter sleeping pills that also contain a pain reliever may help him or her enjoy a comfortable, full night's rest.

Most sleeping pills cause side effects to varying degrees. Among the most common are dizziness and grogginess that may occur the following morning. There is also the possibility of developing serious reactions as a result of taking sleeping pills, but incidences are rare when the medication is taken at recommended doses. Hallucinations, delusions, severe depression, loss of motor control, and even respiratory failure are possible, but unlikely.

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