When Counting Sheep Fails: The Latest Sleep Medications
Is the new generation of sleeping pills the answer for insomnia?
New Sleeping Pills Aren’t Right for Everyone
"If you have insomnia due to sleep-related breathing disorders [sleep apnea]
or restless legs syndrome, for example, these drugs won't address your
underlying problem," says Roth. Pregnant women, of course, shouldn't take these
medications. And if you're "on call," frequently getting up in the middle of
the night for work or for a child, they might not work for you.
They’ve also recently been linked to some unusual side effects. In March
2007, the FDA issued a warning that prescription sleep medications like Ambien
and Lunesta can cause bizarre behaviors during sleep. Some people have reported
that they drove cars and went on eating binges -- literally cleaning out the
refrigerator with no awareness of taking a bite. The FDA has asked drugmakers
to strengthen their product labels with warnings about these side effects. The
FDA notes that severe allergic reactions and facial swelling have also been
linked to these medications.
If your doctor prescribes one of these drugs for you, be aware that these
side effects are a possibility. Consider asking your partner or other adults
who live with you to keep an eye out for nocturnal disturbances.
A Tour of Today’s Sleep Aids
The array of prescription sleep medications available to today’s groggy
insomniac can be truly bewildering. Which one might be right for you? The best
person to answer that is your doctor, or a specialized sleep center if your
struggles have left your doctor baffled. But to give you an idea of some
questions to ask, here is a quick introduction to the medications now on the
Rozerem: If you’ve seen the “your dreams miss you” ads featuring a
bedraggled insomniac talking to Abraham Lincoln and a chess-playing beaver,
you’ve heard about Rozerem. Rozerem is the first in a new class of drugs
designed to act on the body’s melatonin receptors. (Melatonin is a hormone that
affects sleep by helping to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.)
Rozerem is more specifically targeted than regular melatonin supplements,
specifically affecting the sleep center of your brain. Its biggest plus:
safety. Resesarch shows Rozerem has no side effects or withdrawal effects.
“It’s a very safe drug to use, so particularly for people who are on other
medications or who may have a concern about substance abuse, it’s a great
drug,” says Arand. (But Rozerem is also included in the FDA’s list of drugs
that should include a warning about unusual sleep behaviors.)