It's important to ask key questions before choosing your sleep medicine.
- How long does it take for the sleeping pill to take effect?
- How long do the effects last?
- What's the risk of becoming dependent on the sleeping pill, physically or psychologically?
All sleep medicines have the potential for causing dependence. In the large majority of cases, however, this is psychological dependence, not physical.
Talk with your doctor, and use this chart to help you decide which sleeping pill is right for you.DrugHow It WorksDuration of EffectsSide EffectsDependence RiskDiphenhydramineActs on histamine receptors in the brain to cause drowsiness.4-6 hours (sleepiness may last longer)Daytime sleepiness; confusion and difficulty urinating in older people.Low
Selective GABA Medicines
- Ambien (zolpidem tartrate)
- Ambien CR (zolpidem tartrate extended release)
- Lunesta (eszopiclone)
- Sonata (zaleplon)
Sleep-Wake cycle Modifiersmelatonin receptors in the brain area that controls the sleep-wake cycle.4-6 hoursHeadache, drowsiness, dizziness. Uncommonly, problems with sex drive. Loss of menses or problems getting pregnant.Low
Benzodiazepinesbrain.Varies (from 4 hours to more than 12)Sedation, loss of muscle coordination, dizziness, habit-forming.Higher
- Adapin (doxepin)
- Aventyl (nortriptyline)
- Elavil (amitriptyline)
- Pamelor (nortriptyline)
- Sinequan (doxepin)
- Trazodone (desyrel)