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 gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant), pramipexole (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip), and rotigotine (Neupro); 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 alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Diastat, Valium), estazolam (Prosom), orazepam (Ativan), and temazepam (Restoril). 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 eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien); 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.
- Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol -Carbatrol, Epitol); gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant); pregabalin (Lyrica), and valproate (Depakene, Depakote, Depakon); gabapentin (Neurontin). 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 methylphenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil (Provigil), can be used to improve daytime wakefulness in those who are shift workers or suffer from narcolepsy or sleep apnea. Pitolisant (Wakix) and sodium oxybate (Xyrem, Xywav) are other drugs 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. These include lemborexant (Dayvigo) and suvorexant (Belsomra), which are the only approved drugs in this class.