Not getting enough sleep on a daily basis can be extremely frustrating but what’s worse than that is to not get any sleep at all. This is what happens to people with insomnia, and this is a very serious issue. There are tons of prescription sleeping pills and over the counter sleeping medicines to tackle this issue, but they have their risks as well.
This guide is dedicated to prescription sleep aids, how they work, what are their types, side effects, and more. So before this intro make you fall asleep (pun intended), we should get started:
How Do Prescription Sleep Aids Work?
When it comes to the prescribed sleeping pills, their way of working can be a bit different than the over the counter sleep medicines. This is because the prescribed sleeping pills are specifically created to help the user fall asleep while the over the counter sleeping pills are used for something else and generally produce drowsiness as a side effect.
So the way prescription sleep aids work is by targeting the GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors that are present in the brain. These GABA receptors have the duty of controlling the level of relaxation and alertness of your body.
So the selective GABA medications which are the prescribed sleeping pills, target the certain type of the GABA receptors rather than all of them. So they target the ones that are believed to have more control over promoting sleep.
However, these selective GABA sleeping pills can have some potential side effects that are given below:
- Before sleep behavioral changes
- Disturbances in Memory
Though these side effects are usually very mild and the people with these side effects are in a tiny percentage, there is a possibility of them occurring.
Types of Prescription Sleeping Pills:
There are tons of prescription sleeping pills names in the market sold under different brand names. But, we will be talking about the most common sleeping pills names and their classes. The first class includes the Z-drugs that are non-benzodiazepine, the second class includes the benzodiazepine, and the third class includes the prescription sleeping pills that do not fall in any of these two classes. Have a look at all of them below:
When talking about the three non-benzodiazepine drugs; Zolpidem, Zaleplon and Zopiclone/Eszopiclone, the term ‘z-drug’ is used. These drugs have a chemical structure that is different than benzodiazepine drugs which is why they are called non-benzodiazepine.
Though the effects of these drugs are different than the benzodiazepine, they affect the same benzodiazepine receptors inside the brain that regulate the sleepiness.
Although the continuous use of z-drugs can be dangerous especially in the elderly, their dependency and potential abuse risk are lower than the benzodiazepine containing drugs. Have a look at all three drugs that come under z-drugs:
The drugs that contain zaleplon come under different prescribed sleeping pills name including Sonata which is sold in the U.S and many other counties. Some more sleeping pills name under which zaleplon is sold includes Andante, Starnoc (discontinued), Hegon, Zaleplon, Zalep, and Zerene.
Patients who are facing difficulty in falling asleep or those who wake up too early use zaleplon which is basically a hypnotic. The U.S made Sonata is available in 10mg, and 5mg capsules and many physicians may prescribe up to 20mg per day as insomnia treatment which means two capsule of 10 mg each.
If the drug is given to debilitated or elderly patients, then a dose of 5mg or lower is enough. The drug should be used for a short term insomnia treatment that can be treated under 10 days as it can also cause dependency. The use of zaleplon approved by FDA is 30 days.
It is also very important to note that you should only take this drug when you are about to go to bed as it can induce sleep in just one hour. The drug is also known to cause CNS (central nervous system) depression that may also result in coma or death. Some of the side effects include drowsiness, tingling or numbness in feet/hands, appetite loss, vision problems and eye pain, painful menstruation and sensitivity to smell.
There are more than a dozen prescription sleeping pills name that contain zolpidem and it is sold under the name Ambien in the U.S. It is short term insomnia treating prescribed sleeping drug and just like the Zaleplon, Zolpidem is also linked to the CNS depression. The drugs containing zolpidem can cause dependence and potential abuse as well.
The drug is sold by Sanofi Aventis in the U.S., and they have extended its commercial viability by selling a CR (controlled release) formulation. The CR medicines are manufactured in pill form with a layer of slow release and rapid-acting components allowing people under insomnia treatment sleep easily.
Ambien CR, the drug by Sanofi Aventis is available in 12.5mg, and 6.25mg strengths and the recommended use of zolpidem is under 10mg.
When it comes to side effects, it can cause a zombie effect in some people that may create fogginess or poor concentration in the daytime. Some other side effects include headache, drowsiness, lucid dreams and dizziness.
It is a hypnotic prescription sleeping pill that comes under the name of Lunesta in the United States and many other sleeping pills names have also been associated with eszopiclone outside of the U.S. It helps with insomnia treatment and enables the patients to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the whole night. The tablets come under 3mg, 2mg, and 1mg and their recommended daily dosage is 3mg or less.
The interesting thing to note here is that unlike the Zolpidem and Zaleplon, eszopiclone is acted on benzodiazepine receptors. However, the accurate action mechanism is not known yet. On the other hand, the hypnotic effect caused by eszopiclone suggests its interaction with the GABA receptors that are located near benzodiazepine.
Unlike other drugs that come under Z-drugs such as triazolam, the long term use of eszopiclone is approved by FDA which is six months. Lunesta is known as more superior than other prescription sleeping pills name due to its ability to induce sleep and prevention of nighttime waking.
Some of the rare side effects associated with eszopiclone include sleepwalking, memory loss, abnormal thoughts, allergic reactions, and anxiety. Some common side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, dizziness and cold.
These drugs are mainly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders, but their sleep-inducing effects usually make them very suitable to be used as sleep aids. The fact that these sleeping tablets act on the benzodiazepine receptors in your brain, they are called benzodiazepines.
The Benzodiazepines if used for longer than normal period of time, have a very high risk of dependency than the Z-drugs.
Furthermore, the benzodiazepines are not well suited for people with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) because it can worsen the symptoms of OSA by causing pronounced muscle relaxation.
Physicians recommend people taking benzodiazepines to gradually stop the use of these sleep medications because a sudden stop can cause symptoms like depression, anxiety, vomiting and nausea. Below are the three most common sleeping pills name that comes under benzodiazepines:
There are many sleeping pills name associated with triazolam and the one used in the U.S is Halcion. It is used for insomnia treatment especially for people going through severe insomnia. There are many other sleeping pills name that contains triazolam such as Apo-Triazo, Trilam, Hypam and more.
The medicines containing Triazolam are available in 0.25mg, and 0.125 mg tablets and a single dose of any of these strengths is usually adequate for most people under insomnia treatment. Furthermore, the maximum dose of triazolam should not exceed 0.5mg per day.
It is important to note that debilitated and elderly patient should take very low doses. The prescription sleeping pills containing triazolam should not be taken for longer than three weeks consecutively. Also, it should only be taken by people who plan on sleeping for seven hours or more.
Common sleeping pills side effects arising from triazolam include headache, nausea, poor coordination, dizziness and drowsiness that sometimes can be felt the next day.
Temazepam comes with different sleeping pills name including Restoril, Normison, Euhypnos, Temaze, and Remestan. The drug is widely used for the sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia treatment and was first patented in the year of 1965.
When it comes to dosage, a dose of as low as 7.5mg should be enough for many insomnia patients and the same is also recommended for debilitated and elderly patients. But the maximum dose should not be go above 30 mg.
Temazepam is also an insomnia medication that should be used for a short term only. This means that it carries a high risk of drug dependency and potential abuse. Many people who take temazepam will start to feel its effects within a week.
You should keep in mind that the prescribed sleeping pills containing temazepam will induce sleepiness for at least seven hours which means if you wake up too soon, you may find it difficult to remember or concentrate on things. Some of its potential side effects include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, drowsiness, and hangover effect.
This prescription sleeping pill was first created in the 1970s and comes under sleeping pills names like ProSom and Eurodin. The medicine is used to help people fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the whole night. But, just like the aforementioned prescription sleeping pills, it should be used for a short term as there is a risk of dependency.
The maximum dosage of estazolam in adults is 2mg per day, but the dosage of 1mg for most debilitated or geriatric patients will be adequate. Also, it is worth noting that people with liver disease or failure and pregnant women should not take this drug.
ProSom is among the strong sleeping pills because the hangover effect that is produced by estazolam is particularly strong in people who take it and they may struggle with operating vehicles or doing work the other day.
The prescription sleeping pills containing estazolam can cause side effects like hangover effect, drowsiness, leg pain, dizziness, constipation, dry mouth and headache.
Other Prescribed Sleeping Drugs:
So now that you know about the Z-drugs and the Benzodiazepines, you should know that there are some commonly prescribed sleeping pills that fall outside of both of these two types. Let’s have a look at those drugs as well:
Ramelteon is sold in the U.S. under the name Rozerem, and its different generic versions are also sold in the market. The drug acts on the melatonin receptors that are present in the brain. If you don’t know, melatonin is a hormone that helps in regulating the 24-hours natural sleep cycle and is produced in the melatonin receptors.
Ramelteon does on the act on the GABA receptors including benzodiazepine that results in the less hypnotic effect. And the good thing is that due to its minimum hypnotic effects and mechanism of action, the drug has not shown any causes for dependency and there are no reports for potential abuse as well.
Though ramelteon does not come under controlled substances, it is currently only available to be sold on prescriptions, and the physicians usually direct their patients to take just one tablet of 8mg half an hour prior to their sleep.
There are many cases where patients’ symptoms of insomnia started to disappear after regular use for over seven to ten days. Some of the side effects associated with Ramelteon include Dizziness, Drowsiness and a few more adverse effects on health.
This is the newest medicine in our list of prescription sleeping pills and has been approved by the FDA in 2014. Suvorexant comes under the name Belsomra in the U.S market, and according to our knowledge, it is not available anywhere else in the world.
The drug is currently available in 10mg tablets, and its maximum recommended dosage is 20mg per day. Just like Rozerem, you should take Belsomra 30 minutes prior to your bedtime, and if you are not planning to sleep for at least seven hours, you should not consider taking this drug.
Suvorexant is a controlled substance and has been linked to limited dependency and also some potential abuse. According to some studies, the drug has also been linked to severe health problems during pregnancy and should not be taken by people with liver failure as well.
One important thing to note here is that many people have reported that after taking Belsomra, they did not experience improvement in their insomnia. Some of the symptoms related to the drug include drowsiness, diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness and nausea.
Can You Mix Prescription Sleeping Pills With Other Drugs?
The short is NO if you are not given the green light by your physician. People without medical knowledge do not know how prescribed sleeping pills may interact with other drugs that they are taking. And this can result in severe health risks with a possibility of death as well. And if you are wondering, mixing drugs means taking more than one prescription drugs at once or taking prescription drugs with some over the counter medicines.
And when it comes to hypnotic or sedative drugs, then mixing them with other drugs can be even more dangerous without proper knowledge of how they may interact. Also, you need to understand that the use of alcohol with prescribed or even over the counter sleeping pills can prove to be very dangerous or in some cases, even lethal.
So instead of doing any kind of self-treatment, you should always consult a physician first and once you get their approval, only then mix any drugs.
Prescription Sleeping Pills Side Effects:
When it comes to the prescription sleeping pills side effects, there are lots of them. But, some general side effects associated with sleeping pills are:
- Development of Resistance: People who are fighting the battle with insomnia can find comfort in sleeping pills. But, the problem is that virtually all of the sleeping pills that are available in the market can make your body develop resistance to them if used for a long time. This means that a time will come when you will no longer find the sleeping pills working for you.
- Unpredictable Behavior: Another problem associated with sleeping pills is that they may cause parasomnia which induces a state of semi-unconsciousness. And if the patient enters in this state, he/she may do things that they will not even remember when they are fully awake. People are not in their control.
- Drug Dependency: Another problem associated with most of the prescribed sleeping pills and also with the over the counter sleeping pills is that they can cause the patient to become dependent on them for falling asleep. Though this only happens in long term use, it can cause other problems and adverse side effects associated with the sleeping pills.
- Memory Loss: If you use sleeping pills for a long time, you can even become the victim of memory loss. Though there is no guarantee that every patient will be prone to memory loss, it is still a possibility especially in people who use sleeping pills for a long time.
- Acid Reflux: If you suffer from heartburn, it is crucial that you avoid taking any sleeping pills. This is because they can increase the risk of you falling the victim of acid reflux which is not a pleasant thing to have if you love food.
- Drowsiness: Though it is pretty obvious, it is still work mentioning that sleeping pills can cause drowsiness up to the point that you cannot even drive the next day you wake up. This is because the effect of sleeping pills depending on your dosage can last for many hours making it risky for you to operate any machinery.
There are a lot more side effects depending on the formula of the sleeping pill you are using; it is best that you discuss all the side effects associated with a prescribed pill with your doctor.
Tips for Taking Prescription Sleeping Pills:
When it comes to taking the prescription sleeping pills, there are some things that you should always keep in mind to ensure your safety:
- Before you take any type of sleeping pills even if they are just over the counter sleeping pills, it is imperative that you first see a doctor and get an evaluation of your condition. The physician will be in the best position to prescribe a sleeping pill according to your condition.
- Though your doctor should tell you when and how to take the prescription sleeping pills, if you forget the instructions, you should either contact your doctor or at least read the guide for taking that specific medication or ask the pharmacist.
- It is important to note that you should only take the sleeping pills when you are about to go to bed. This is because you will start to feel drowsy and then you will not be able to do much but sleep.
- It is already mentioned above that you should only take the prescribed sleeping pills when you can get a full night’s sleep of at least seven hours. Because if you wake up early, you will still be under the effect of the medicine and you may end up doing damage to yourself or others.
- No matter what happens, you should AVOID ALCOHOL at all costs when you are taking sleep medicines. Do not mix it with the medication or you may experience adverse health effects that may even prove to be lethal.
- Another thing that is important to mention here is that you should always monitor your condition for any side effects arising from a particular prescribed sleeping pill. If you experience any, call your doctor immediately.
So these are some of the things that you should keep in mind to ensure your safety. However, your doctor can assist you better.
Over to You:
This is all that you should know about the prescription sleeping pills. Please note that the drugs mentioned above are just mentioned for your knowledge. We are, in any way, not promoting their use. It is imperative that you always talk to a physician when it comes to taking prescribed sleeping pills.
Your doctor will be able to prescribe you better medicine or therapy based on your condition and medical history. Furthermore, do not take sleeping pills any longer than what your doctor has recommended or you may develop dependency which is hard to get rid of.