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There are many insomnia medications on the market. They range from sedatives to benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines to over-the-counter medicines to sedating antidepressants to "natural", herbal and other home remedies. Before taking any medication for insomnia, talk with your doctor.
Here is a breakdown of each type of insomnia medication, courtesy of the American Insomnia Association:
Sedative hypnotic medications are medications approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of insomnia. In addition to these prescription medications there are non-prescription hypnotics available over the counter, along with other medications that may be given by physicians to their patients to aid in either the onset or maintenance of sleep.
Benzodiazepine Hypnotics is a group of medications does have the potential of being habit forming and is best avoided in patients known to have a history of substance abuse or dependence.
Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medications feature three medications that are approved by the FDA in the treatment of insomnia. All three of these medications have been found to be safe and effective in the treatment of insomnia. They differ primarily in their duration of action.
Over-the-counter(OTC) medications used to induce sleep contain antihistamine agents. These agents are sedating, but they also have significant side effects. In addition, adverse effects can include dry mouth, dry eyes, confusion and urinary retention.
Sedating antidepressants may help patients with a variety of problems, including, but not restricted to depression. For some patients, sleepiness in the daytime may be a problem, but these effects tend to diminish over time. In some patients the medications may actually worsen problems such as periodic limb movement disorder.
"Natural", herbal and other home remedies have been used for years. One of the most recent "natural" remedies for insomnia has been melatonin, which can be obtained at most health food stores. Melatonin is a hormone that is known to be involved in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness. However, scientific data have failed to confirm that melatonin is useful in maintaining sleep.
It is important to note that products sold in health food stores have not been exposed to the rigorous testing that is required of all prescription products. Therefore, many of the claims that are made regarding these substances have not been adequately tested in a laboratory environment.