Insomnia: Sleep Aids and Medications

There are many instances in which behavioral and environmental changes aren’t effective at treating or curing insomnia. There are also times when insomnia sufferers simply don’t wish to try these other types of treatments and cures. Fortunately for those individuals, several effective sleep aids and medications are available.

If taken correctly and only as needed for short periods of time, prescription medications need not cause any problems with addiction. That’s good news especially since sleep medications are the most common treatment for insomnia.

Medications to treat insomnia are available by prescription and over-the counter. To obtain a prescription, you of course need to be under the care of a physician. This is actually wise since effective treatment begins with a firm diagnosis and an identification of any underlying causes for the insomnia. For example, if insomnia turns out to be a symptom of depression or anxiety, the patient will fare better when given a prescription designed to treat depression or anxiety rather than the sleep disorder.

When insomnia is identified as purely a sleep issue, the most effective sleep aids for promoting sleep are called hypnotics. The two main goals of hypnotics are to induce sleep faster and then maintain it for a longer period, resulting in better quality sleep.

There are half-life hypnotics and full-life. Half-life hypnotics are designed to stay in the system only half the amount of the time as full-life so they won’t interfere with daytime activities. Hypnotics vary by dosage, too. They’re most effective when taken for short durations and when their use is decreased over a period of time rather than all at once.

Antihistamines are the most common form of over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping aid. Although antihistamines are designed to block the chemicals that the body releases during an allergic outbreak, they have the ability to calm which makes them effective at encouraging sleep. However, this is a point of considerable debate. Some OTC sleep aids contain pain relievers and even if they don’t, OTC sleep aids should never be taken with alcohol. Even though they’re available without a prescription, it’s advisable to consult with a medical professional before taking any type of sleep aid.

Melatonin supplements are another sleep aid that can help in dealing with insomnia. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone the body produces as day turns into night. Melatonin helps the body prepare for sleep by lowering body temperature and triggering other changes inside the body.

Care must be taken when supplementing melatonin because there is always a risk of over-supplementation (ingesting more than the body needs to work effectively). In addition, nutritional supplements such as melatonin lack the stringent testing and reporting requirements that govern prescription medications so side effects and long-term effects may not be fully understood.

Some claim that herbal remedies including St. John’s Wort, valerian root, chamomile and lemon balm are effective at reducing instances of insomnia, but like nutritional supplements, there are no regulations requiring the generation of reports and/or studies to back up these claims or document the benefits or disadvantages of long-term usage.

If you’re having trouble sleeping and nothing seems to help, it might be time to see about speaking with a sleep consultant. Visit to learn more about insomnia– and how you can, with help, finally get a good night’s sleep.