Insomnia is a horrible, frustrating and taxing condition. Prescription sleep aids are a way to give you a respite and strengthen you enough to deal with the cause of your insomnia—they aren’t a cure. Many types of prescription sleep aids exist to address the different types of insomnia.
Here’s a table from my book: Good Night, Sleep Right: Your Guide to Avoiding Common Sleep Injuries due out later this year.
Sleep Aids for Chilling You Out
Benzodiazepines are the oldest form of sleep aids on the market and are also prescribed to treat anxiety. If your insomnia is more psychological, a doctor will give you these to help you relax. They slow down your central nervous system. The addictiveness is controversial—most doctors say yes but recent research says no. Sleep at least 7-8 hours, as they can make you feel drowsy during the day.
Sleep Aids for Knocking You Out
Melatonin Receptor Agonists tell your brain to make some melatonin, that lovely chemical that makes you tired. About 30 minutes after taking one you’re gone. If your insomnia is about not falling asleep, this is a good one for you. It’s not supposed to be at all addictive nor does it stay in your system. But, studies have shown herbal melatonin works just as well and it’s cheaper.
Sleep Aids for Keeping You Out
Short acting sedatives slow your brain down, like pressing the break until you stop. These are good if you have a hard time staying asleep at night. Take them when you know you can get a full night’s sleep, or they make you very drowsy the next day. The FDA changed the labels on the drugs in this class, as users were reporting freaky sleepwalking behaviors, like sleep-driving, sleep-sex and sleep-violence.
New Sleep Aids for Keeping You Out
Orexin is a chemical in your brain that regulates wakefulness and makes you hungry. Narcolepsy is caused by not having enough orexin in your brain. Orexin Receptor Agonists block orexin, causing you to fall asleep and stay asleep easily, like a narcoleptic. With these, there is very little side effects and low risk of addiction. But, you have to make sure you can get at least seven hours of sleep so the narcolepsy doesn’t carry over into your working day.
Sleep Aids for Living on the Edge
Tricyclic Antidepressants are old-school anti-depressants from the late 1950’s. Since then, most doctors prescribe SSRI antidepressants, as those have fewer side effects. The side effects for these kinds of drugs read like a Costco grocery list. But, some people still use them as a last ditch attempt when all else fails, as they do work, but with a price. The other minor problem is that tricyclic antidepressants are super toxic and easy to overdose on.
Here is a list of links that are great resources for insomnia, medications and treatments: