What Are the Different Types of Prescription Sleep Aids?

Many prescription sleep aids are not safe to take while breastfeeding.
Different prescription sleep aids come with different side effects.
Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
In general, patients who are taking any prescription drug to treat insomnia should steer clear of alcohol.
Prescription sleep aids help people with insomnia sleep.
People having difficulty sleeping may choose from various prescription sleep aids.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Some people with insomnia have trouble falling asleep. Others may find themselves constantly waking up throughout the night. There are different types of prescription sleep aids for both of these problems. Before taking any new medication, patients should carefully review the potential side effects and interactions with their doctors. Most prescription sleep aids work by targeting certain receptors in the brain to stimulate sleep.

Eszopiclone and estazolam are two kinds of prescription sleep aids for people who have trouble staying asleep. Estazolam may not be safe for the elderly or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, however. It can also be habit-forming and may interact with other drugs. Eszopiclone may be safer for long-term use, however, it is not a good choice for people who have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, lung disease, or depression. Discontinuing this medication may also result in withdrawal effects, like nausea, anxiety, and shakiness.

Patients may also consider zolpidem, which may be safer for long-term use. People with a history of respiratory conditions, liver or kidney disease, or depression should not consider zolpidem. Another option may be temazepam, however, this drug can be habit-forming. It may also interact with other medications, alcohol, and may be inappropriate for patients with a history of severe depression.


Triazolam, a class of drug called a benzodiazepine, may be used by patients who are not pregnant or breastfeeding and do not have a history of depression or drug abuse. This medication may be habit-forming as well. It can also cause withdrawal effects when discontinued abruptly, so patients should gradually reduce dosages. Triazolam may also interact with alcohol, grapefruit juice, and other medications.

Ramelteon is different from many prescription sleep aids in that it is less likely to be habit-forming. It produces a similar effect to the natural hormone, melatonin, that regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle. Ramelteon is not safe for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or those who have a history of sleep apnea, depression, and kidney or respiratory problems. It may also interact with alcohol. Patients should refrain from eating high-fat meals before taking this drug, as it may slow the absorption of the medication.

Instead of these prescription sleep aids, patients can consider the use of a sedating antidepressant when their insomnia is secondary to depression. Some examples of sedating antidepressants include amitriptyline, trazodone, and doxepin. These drugs may interact with many other medications, including blood-thinners and herbal supplements. Many antidepressants can cause life-threatening side effects when used within 14 days of taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). Patients should carefully consider several different types of prescription sleep aids with their doctor before using one.


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