Sleeping Aids

WHAT ARE SLEEPING AIDS?

Doctors prescribe several types of medications to treat insomnia. The most well known are drugs like Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (escopiclone) and Sonata (zaleplon) — sometimes referred to as the “Z-drugs” or hypnotics.

HOW DO SLEEPING AIDS WORK?

Sleeping aids affect a brain structure called the GABA receptor, which is widely found throughout the brain and has many functions. Their main effect is to dampen arousal, thereby allowing sleep to occur. There are also non-GABA sleep medications like Rozerem (ramelteon), which reduces arousal by affecting the receptor for the hormone melatonin.

CAN SLEEPING AIDS BE HABIT FORMING?

These drugs can be psychologically habit-forming. If the sleeping aid effectively promotes sleep but is stopped suddenly, for instance, some people may show signs of psychological dependence, with the desire to want to keep taking them. When sleeping aids are discontinued insomnia can return, prompting the patient to want to continue with the medication. That is why it is important to include behavioral treatments, such as good sleep hygiene or cognitive behavioral therapy, along with any medication treatment so that you can withdraw from the medication without a return of the insomnia. 

WHAT ARE The withdrawal effects from stopping sleeping aids?

Withdrawal symptoms from sleeping aids usually begins within 48 hours and may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Sweating, Tremors, Nausea, Cramps, and Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Confusion