Common Sleeping Pills: Medications That Can Help You Sleep

Disclaimer - Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment... Read More Here.

Sleeping pills are medications that can help you sleep. Sleeping pills are used by millions of people.  Sleep medication can come in prescription and over-the-counter forms. They can be very effective in helping you get the rest you need.

Many of the most common sleeping pills have side effects. Some medications can interfere with sleep by causing wakefulness or disrupting normal sleep patterns. The best way to avoid possible side effects is to take the recommended dosage at the right time. Going over the recommended dosage is dangerous because it can mess up your sleeping schedule, resulting in headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

You should talk to your doctor if you struggle to fall and stay asleep. They will recommend the best sleeping pill to help you sleep. You must read the information sheet that comes with every medication to learn about its ingredients and side effects.

1. Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed as sleeping pills. They help to quiet the mind and promote relaxation. Antidepressants are usually prescribed to those who have difficulty sleeping due to anxiety or depression. The most commonly used antidepressants are Trazodone, Doxepin, and Amitriptyline. These antidepressants are used to treat depression and help you fall and stay asleep. The dosage of these antidepressants is usually smaller when you use them as sleeping pills. The doctor who prescribes the medication will tell you the right dosage for sleeping. The side effects of antidepressants include feeling sick, the loss of appetite, headaches, diarrhea, and constipation. These antidepressants are non-addictive. The side effects shouldn't be too intense because the recommended dosage is low. You should only use antidepressants when a doctor prescribes them and follow the directions explicitly.

Illustration of a Young Man Having a Nightmare

2. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that is used to relieve anxiety. They work by slowing down the activity of the brain. Benzodiazepines can be addictive, and they should only be taken as prescribed by a doctor. The most common benzodiazepines are Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are usually prescribed to those with anxiety disorders, but they can also be used as sleeping pills. The dosage of a benzodiazepine should always be lower when it is used as a sleep medication. It's best to consult your doctor about the dosage and the exact benzodiazepine for your sleep-related issue. The side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, and memory problems. Benzodiazepines can be addictive, so it's important to follow your doctor's directions when taking them. You shouldn't use benzodiazepines for more than a few weeks at a time.

3. Doxepin (Silenor)

Doxepin is an antidepressant that is prescribed to treat insomnia. The medicine works by blocking histamine receptors in the brain. Doxepin is non-addictive, and it's one of the few sleeping pills that doesn't have a risk of dependency. The recommended dosage of doxepin for sleep is between 3 milligrams and 6 milligrams. The side effects of doxepin include dry mouth, drowsiness, and constipation. Doxepin should be taken before bedtime.

4. Eszopiclone (Lunesta)

Eszopiclone is a non-addictive sleep medicine that is used to treat insomnia. Eszopiclone works by binding to brain receptors that promote sleep. The recommended dosage for eszopiclone is between 2 milligrams and 3 milligrams. The side effects of eszopiclone include next-day drowsiness, headache, and dizziness. Eszopiclone should be taken before bedtime, but it's best to talk to your doctor about how and when to take it.

5. Lemborexant (Dayvigo)

Lemborexant is a new sleep medication that the FDA recently approved. Lemborexant is a non-addictive drug that helps to promote sleep by blocking certain receptors in the brain. The recommended dosage of lemborexant is 10 milligrams. The side effects of lemborexant include next-day drowsiness and headache. Lemborexant should be taken at bedtime to get the best results.

Illustration of a Man Suffering from Insomnia

6. Ramelteon (Rozerem)

Ramelteon is a sleep medicine that works by binding to receptors in the brain that promote sleep. Ramelteon is non-addictive and doesn't have the same risks as other sleeping pills. The recommended dosage of ramelteon is 8 milligrams. The side effects of ramelteon include next-day drowsiness and headache. You should take ramelteon before going to bed. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the best dosage for your sleep-related problem.

7. Suvorexant (Belsomra)

Suvorexant is a sleep medication that works by blocking certain receptors in the brain. Suvorexant is non-addictive and doesn't have many side effects. The recommended starting dosage of suvorexant is 10 milligrams, but it's best to follow your doctor's advice. The side effects of suvorexant include next-day drowsiness, headache, and dizziness. Suvorexant should be taken before going to bed to help you fall and stay asleep.

8. Zaleplon (Sonata)

Zaleplon is a sleep medication that helps you fall and stay asleep by binding to certain receptors in the brain. Zaleplon is non-addictive and doesn't have too many side effects. The recommended dosage of zaleplon is between 5 milligrams and 10 milligrams. The side effects of zaleplon include lightheadedness, numbness in the hands or feet, lack of coordination, loss of appetite, and vision problems. You should talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects because you will probably have to stop using the medicine. Your doctor will tell you when it's best to take zaleplon. Zaleplon is usually used before bedtime, but this depends on the dosage your doctor recommends.

9. Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo)

Zolpidem is a prescription drug used to treat insomnia. You can use it alone or with other medications, but only if a doctor recommends it. Zolpidem is a sedative that may cause common side effects like dizziness, lightheadedness, diarrhea, and tiredness. Zolpidem can also cause more severe side effects like difficulty breathing, aggression, unusual behavior, hallucinations, and thoughts of self-harm. It's best to take it before bed, but only if your schedule allows you to sleep 7 to 8 hours. Zolpidem works quickly, so it shouldn’t take long before you become sleepy.

Illustration of a Sleeping Pill Addicted Woman

10. Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

There are many over-the-counter sleep aids available, but not all are effective. The most commonly used over-the-counter sleeping pill is diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl. Diphenhydramine works by blocking histamine receptors in the brain, which promotes sleep. It's best to take it before bed because it can make you drowsy. The downside to diphenhydramine is that it can cause next-day drowsiness, dry mouth, and constipation. There are many other over-the-counter sleep aids available, but it's best to ask your doctor which one would be the best for you.

How Should You Use Sleeping Pills?

You should use sleeping pills exactly as your doctor prescribed. If you're considering using sleeping pills, it's important to know how to use them safely and effectively. Sleeping pills can be helpful when used correctly. Doctors recommend you always read the information sheet included with the medicine. Don't take more than the prescribed amount. It's important you know if a certain sleeping pill mixes well with other medication you may take. Most doctors state that sleeping pills should only be used for a short-term period. Don't take them for more than two weeks without talking to your doctor. Use caution when taking sleeping pills if you have a history of addiction. Sleeping pills should only be taken when you can get a full night's sleep.

When Should You Use Sleeping Pills?

You should only take sleeping pills when you can get a full night's sleep. This means sleeping pills shouldn't be used during the daytime or when you have to be awake for work or school. Sleeping pills may make you tired the next day, so use caution when driving or operating heavy machinery.

What are the Possible Side Effects of Sleeping Pills?

Possible side effects of sleeping pills may differ depending on the sleeping medication you take. The most common side effects of sleeping pills are listed below.

  • Changes in appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Tingling or burning in the feet, legs, arms, or hands
  • Balance problems
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry throat or mouth
  • Headache
  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Problems with memory or attention
  • Shaking
  • Unusual dreams
  • Unusual behavior
Person Having Acid Reflux (GERD)

What Sleep Disorders can be Treated with Sleeping Pills?

Sleep disorders that can be treated with sleeping pills are insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. The best sleeping pills for sleep disorders like insomnia are benzodiazepine, zolpidem, and zaleplon.

  • Restless Leg Syndrome: Restless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder that causes you to have an irresistible urge to move your legs. The best sleeping pills for restless leg syndrome are pramipexole, ropinirole, and rotigotine.

  • Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. The best sleeping pills for sleep apnea are zolpidem and eszopiclone.

What are the Alternative Treatments for Sleep Disorders?

Alternative treatments for sleep disorders include acupuncture, aromatherapy, yoga, sleep hypnosis, CBD, and different relaxation techniques. Other alternative therapies exist but may not be as popular and easy to do. Some alternative treatments for sleep disorders take longer to work than others. Most treatments are harmless, but you may experience short-term side effects. It’s best to learn about each treatment before trying it out to make sure it can fix the sleep-related issue you have.

Content Writer

Jill Zwarensteyn is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.

She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.

Sleep Advisor