In some cases, doctors will prescribe drugs such as sleeping pills for the treatment of sleep problems. Medications are typically used for a short time, and work best in combination with good sleep practices and/or behavioral treatments.
Types of Drugs Used to Treat Sleep Disorders
Listed below are some of the types of drugs used to treat sleep disorders. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication for your particular sleep problems.
- Anti-Parkinsonian drugs (dopamine agonists), such as carbidopa/levodopa (Sinemet,) bromocriptine (Parlodelm, Cycloset), ropinirole (Requip), rotigotine (Neupro), and pramipexole (Mirapex); these drugs may be used to treat restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder (also called nocturnal myoclonus syndrome).
- Benzodiazepines , which are included in a class of drugs called hypnotics; some types of benzodiazepines include clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium, Diastat), temazepam (Restoril), estazolam, alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan). These drugs may be used to treat parasomnias. Occasionally, they are also used to treat bruxism (teeth grinding) and short-term insomnia.
- Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, such as zaleplon (Sonata), and eszopiclone (Lunesta); these drugs are used to treat short-term insomnia.
- Melatonin receptor stimulator, ramelteon (Rozerem), was approved in 2005 and -- to date -- is in a class by itself. It is used to treat insomnia.
- Opiates, such as codeine, oxycodone, methadone, and dihydromorphone; these drugs may be used to treat restless legs syndrome that won't respond to treatment or is present in pregnancy.
- Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol -Carbatrol, Epitol); valproate (Depakene, Depakote, Depakon); gabapentin (Neurontin); gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant); pregabalin (Lyrica). These drugs may be used to treat nocturnal eating syndrome, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and insomnia related to bipolar disorder.
- Antinarcoleptics, such as modafinil (Provigil) and methylphenidate (Ritalin), can be used to improve daytime wakefulness in those who are shift workers or suffer from narcolepsy or sleep apnea. Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) is another drug that can control excessive daytime sleepiness and loss of muscle control in people with narcolepsy.
- Antidepressants or antianxiety medications. Certain drugs used to treat anxiety and depression may be used for sleep because drowsiness is one of their main side effects. These include medications such as mirtazepine (Remeron), trazodone, and quetiapine (Seroquel).
Orexin receptor antagonists. Orexins are chemicals that are involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle and play a role in keeping people awake. This type of drug alters the action of orexin in the brain. The only approved drug in this class is suvorexant (Belsomra.