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Prescription Sleep Aids: Powerful Choices to Discuss with Your Doctor

Danielle Mcleod

If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep you most likely are not getting the proper amount of rest you need to function both physically and mentally the following day. Staying asleep is especially important, as disruptions to your sleep cycle can interrupt important brain and body function over time. But what can you do to get the rest you need?

Sleep aids are available in many forms, both as over the counter and prescription choices. Prescription aids are especially powerful, and should be used with care, but with proper use and under doctors supervision are very effective in beating the worst of your nighttime woes. The best sleep aids of prescription strength are explored below based on consumer and medical review.

It is important to always keep in mind that sleep aids are supposed to be a short term solution to provide a way to integrate a more natural sleep into your schedule. They always should be used on doctors care, and certain side effects, some severe, may occur.

RankProductHighlights
#1

Ambien CR

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  • Drug Name: Zolpidem
  • Uses: fall asleep, stay asleep
  • Dependency: yes
  • Common Side Effects: headaches, grogginess, dizziness
#2

Lunesta

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  • Drug Name: Eszopiclone
  • Uses: Fall asleep, Stay Asleep
  • Dependency: yes
  • Common Side Effects: tiredness, dizziness, grogginess, dry mouth
#3

Silenor

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  • Drug Name: Doxepin
  • Uses: stay asleep
  • Dependency: no
  • Common Side Effects: tiredness and drowsiness
#4

Rozerem

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  • Drug Name: Ramelteon
  • Uses: helps you fall asleep
  • Dependency: no
  • Common Side Effects: wakefulness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea
#5

Restoril

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  • Drug Name: Temazepam
  • Uses: fall asleep, stay asleep
  • Dependency: yes
  • Common Side Effects: drowsiness, lack of focus

When People Struggle to Sleep

As mentioned above, getting the proper amount and quality of rest is important to your health. The busy lives we lead, and the navigating of life, in general, has led to approximately 1 in 3 adults worldwide unable to get the sleep they deserve. This includes 164 million Americans reporting that they struggle to fall asleep and stay there.

There are many options to try and improve your sleep quality and comfort through the purchase of new mattresses and pillows, an awareness of sleep positions and spinal alignment, and a change in diet and/or approaches to sleep schedule. But when these fail, people have a tendency to try to get sleep at almost any cost- especially if their lack of sleep is due to something out of their control.

Common issues that create restless and interruptions of sleep include insomnia, or the inability to falls asleep, or the inability to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. This can be caused by a variety of reasons and is a blanket term used to describe this poor quality of rest. This encompasses things like a circadian rhythm disorder, which is what recognizes when it is time to sleep, as well as mental health issues, depression, medication use, and even injury.

Chronic pain and injury common problems as well, often forcing sleepers into unnatural sleep positions, or creating body aches that are difficult to address. Those who are recovering from trauma, or those suffering from arthritis, for example, often report issues with sleep. Restless leg syndrome is also a problem that is defined by an involuntary movement of the lower limbs. Many times asleep may not even know this is happening, but it will disrupt natural sleep cycles and can be a source of sleep disorders.

Sleep Apnea and snoring are also problems that often disrupt a sleeper.  Snorers often waken themselves due to the noise they make, or the effort it takes to draw and expel their breath due to the obstruction of the airway. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that is often marked by snoring, but also a period of pause in the breathing as well- often jolting them awake, or creating dangerous sleep conditions.

Sleep Aid Options

As mentioned above, there are sleep aid options to help with your overall comfort, but if comfort is not the issue than most people turn to the possibility of a sleep aid. The first thing you should understand is that sleep aid use should always be discussed with your doctor in advance.

Sleep aids are not for everyone, and may not be an option depending on the medication prescriptions you may already be taking. There are many, many options to consider- such as non-prescription, over the counter choices that also encompass all natural aids. But there also are powerful prescription medicine to research that may help when others haven’t.

You may be interested in: Best Natural Sleep Aids

How Prescription Sleep Aids Work

There are 5 main drug types used in prescription sleep aids. These are categorized based on how they work on your normal brain function and are found under many different names through various pharmaceutical companies. In short, this is how that can be broken down for layman understanding (Source):

Drug TypeCommon NameHow it Works
Orexin receptor antagonistsSuvorexantInhibits chemical that increases alertness.
BenzodiazepinesFlurazepam, TriazolamSlows brain activity by enhancing the neurotransmitter GABA activity.
Non-benzodiazepine hypnoticsZolpidem, EszopicloneSlows brain activity by enhancing GABA activity.
AntidepressantsTrazadone, DoxepineSedates by altering serotonin and norepinephrine levels.
MelatoninRamelteonIncreases chemical responsible for sleep/wake cycle.

Prescription Sleep Aid Ingredients and Possible Side Effects

There are an incredible array of ingredients and drugs used in prescription pills, all synthetic and carefully created in labs upon which they have been years in trials before FDA approval. Despite these carefully controlled methods and trials, this does not mean that the resulting drug is safe for over the counter use, nor should its use be it be approached lightly.

Most drugs have a side effect of some sort, many of which people may never experience or notice, but all have the possibility of having severe reactions and discomfort. Sleeping pills, in particular, are also habit forming as they work upon the function of the brain to induce sleep – and can build up in your system over time, making you more and more resistant to the drug.  Even those that are considered non-habit forming can create a psychological dependency – which is why almost all sleep aids, OTC or prescription, should be used for short term durations rather than anything long term.

This does not mean you should be scared to enter into a conversation with your doctor about their use. There are various kinds, all which serve a similar purpose, and all with varying effects. They are highly effective, and when used properly, under a doctor’s observation and care, side effects can be nipped in the bud if they occur, and the proper dosage and type of drug can be better administered.

The Best Prescription Sleep Aid Pill Choices to Consider

When nothing seems to work, and your lack of sleep has become a problem, speaking with your doctor to determine the best course of action is important. Researching commonly prescribed sleep aids, like those highlighted below, help you enter into the conversation informed, and aware of both how these work, and what kind of side effects may occur.

Ambien CR

Specs:

  • Drug Name: Zolpidem
  • Uses: fall asleep, stay asleep
  • Dependency: yes
  • Common Side Effects: headaches, grogginess, dizziness
Prescription aids are especially powerful, and should be used with care, but with proper use and under doctors supervision are very effective in beating the worst of your nighttime woes.

Zolpidem, a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic, is the main ingredient of Ambien CR. This has become a common prescription, and like its counterpart, Ambien, creates an increase of activity in the neurotransmitter GABA to slow down brain activity. Ambien helps you fall asleep, while Ambien CR helps you stay there through an extended release design of the pill. Like most prescriptions, these are powerful choices often prescribed for no more than a week or two at a time to help reset sleep schedules or get through difficult time.

They are considered dependent forming, with common side effects including grogginess the next day, as well as possible headaches. More severe side effects may include sleepwalking, anxiety, and even aggression. Allergic reactions are rare but can cause swelling of the tongue and throat and requires immediate medical attention.

Pros:

  • Fall asleep fast and stay asleep
  • The common and popular prescription that works well for most people
  • No wait time to determine if it works or not

Cons:

  • May feel groggy, and out of it the next day
  • Has possible serious side effects

Who Should Purchase this Product

This is a fairly common prescription name and is considered very effective. It is often prescribed in small doses for regular bouts of insomnia. Most people have mild side effects and find it to provide immediate relief to their sleeplessness.

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Lunesta

Specs:

  • Drug Name: Eszopiclone
  • Uses: Fall asleep, Stay Asleep
  • Dependency: yes
  • Common Side Effects: tiredness, dizziness, grogginess, dry mouth

Like Ambien, Lunesta is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic and goes by the name Eszopiclone. It creates a calming effect on your brain to help slow function to allow you to fall asleep, and stay asleep. Most prescriptions do require you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep since grogginess the next day is a common side effect. This particular drug can be prescribed in various doses, with a 1 mg dose being a common prescription for working adults who need a clear head the following day. But up to 3 mg is regularly prescribed.

This is a dependent forming drug, with fairly severe withdrawal symptoms, even when used properly. Taking for only short term length, and only when needed is practical to keep from building up in your system. The most common side effects are dizziness, tiredness, and dry mouth, but aggressive behaviors, mood swings, and depression have also been recorded. Allergic reactions include dizziness, swelling, and a rash.

Pros:

  • Works quickly and efficiently
  • Can be prescribed in various doses to treat various sleep conditions
  • Helps you to sleep through the whole night

Cons:

  • Has some serious side effects for some people
  • Can make you feel groggy the next day even when used correctly

Who Should Purchase this Product

Lunesta has gained in popularity as a prescribed sleep aid for short term issues and to help with sleep disorders. The variances in doses are preferred by many doctors as well, and it is considered a fast acting and effective choice.

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Silenor

Specs:

  • Drug Name: Doxepin
  • Uses: stay asleep
  • Dependency: no
  • Common Side Effects: tiredness and drowsiness

When you struggle to stay asleep at night, your cycle becomes disrupted, leaving you feeling exhausted the next day. Silenor, which uses an antidepressant as a sedative, provides you with the ability to stay asleep through the night. Designed to help you sleep up to 7 hours, this is considered a non-addictive option. When combined with good sleep habits, such as being consistent with sleep times and turning off blue light emitting devices, such as a phone, it can be very effective in helping you get the rest you need.

The most common side effect of the drug was feeling drowsy the next day, or tired as the day wore on. Because it is considered non-habit forming, it can be used regularly – although lingering insomnia can indicate a more deep set problem. It also is considered safe for elderly people who struggle with sleep issues. With no potential for withdrawal symptoms, it is one of the safest prescription sleep aids on the market.

Pros:

  • Available in different dose options for a more personalized effect
  • Non-habit forming (physical)
  • Works efficiently

Cons:

  • Requires at least 7 hours of sleep or you may wake still tired
  • Can influence sleepwalking

Who Should Purchase this Product

This is an excellent choice for anyone worried about dependency issues, or who know they have frequent bouts of insomnia as it can be used long term under doctor’s care.

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Rozerem

Specs:

  • Drug Name: Ramelteon
  • Uses: helps you fall asleep
  • Dependency: no
  • Common Side Effects: wakefulness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea

If you have trouble falling asleep, then the drug Ramelteon, under the name Rozerem, might be a decent choice. This drug also is considered non-habit forming and is a prescriptive melatonin receptor to work with your natural sleep cycle to promote sleepiness. Designed to promote sleep,it does not have a high incident of sleepiness and is good for those who may need to rise in the middle of the night.

It does come with a series of side effects, especially since melatonin does not work the same in all people due to how hard it is to measure your varying levels of the hormone outside a doctors office. Common side effects include wakefulness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. More severe effects include worsening depression,  , as well as allergic reactions that cause a swelling of the tongue and throat, as well as trouble breathing.

Pros:

  • Non-habit forming
  • Is a more natural approach to work with your own melatonin levels
  • Allows you to wake through the night if needed

Cons:

  • Can create the opposite effect of sleep
  • Can create restlessness and lack of focus

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Restoril

Specs:

  • Drug Name: Temazepam
  • Uses: fall asleep, stay asleep
  • Dependency: yes
  • Common Side Effects: drowsiness, lack of focus

Restoril is a Benzodiazepine, and is used to help slow the brain function to help you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep. This aid uses Temazepam as the main drug, which sedates function for a minimum of 7 to 8 hours. It can be prescribed in various doses to meet the severity of insomnia taking place. Designed to be used for short term relief, little to no side effects are generally seen when used within a 2 week period. Despite it being habit forming, no withdrawal symptoms seem to occur over such a short time.

It can be habit forming, however- and is not suggested to be used past a 2 week period. It also has common side effects that include daytime drowsiness and lack of focus. More severe effects may include aggression, anxiety, and depersonalization. Allergic reactions include swelling of tongue, throat, and mouth which can restrict airways.

Pros:

  • Very effective when used properly
  • Little to no side effects in many users with 7 to   doses
  • Dose strength options help provide a better, more customized experience.

Cons:

  • Is habit forming and needs to be taken with care
  • Can leave you feeling groggy and tired the next day

Who Should Purchase this Product

For those struggling with sleep and staying asleep, this is a great short term option which rarely shows any side effects when used properly.

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You may want to read: Best Sleep Aid Pills

Conclusion

When you have exhausted all options in reference to your sleep problems, and have discussed and tried OTCs with your doctor- a prescription sleep aid may be worth considering. Always approach a new medication with caution, and make sure all your current medications are checked, and cross-checked, for possible interactions. These also are designed for short term use, as most are very habit forming, and can have some pretty severe side effects over time. Be sure to discuss, in detail, the use with your doctor, and stay in touch with them on their effectiveness in order to determine if they are working properly for you. Also – never be afraid to ask questions about the use and dosage.