At the same time, studies have found that chronic insomnia is undertreated, and that fewer than half of the people who need help actually to get it.
Four prescription drugs used to treat insomnia—
Eszopiclone (Lunesta and generic), ramelteon (Rozerem and generic),
Zaleplon (Sonata and generic) and
Zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, Zolpimist, and generic)—are effective but not necessarily better than behavioral therapy or older.
Less expensive drugs for many people who need a sleep aid.
Older prescription sedatives called benzodiazepines, such as estazolam (generic only), triazolam (Halcion and generic), and temazepam (Restoril and generic), might work just as well as the newer sleeping pills. Nonprescription drugs containing an antihistamine—for example, diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl, but also sold as a sleep aid under the brand names Nytol and Sominex and as a generic) or doxylamine (Unisom and generic)—might help if you have suffered insomnia for just a night or two. Antidepressants, particularly trazodone, are also commonly prescribed for insomnia.
All insomnia medicines can cause side effects like daytime sleepiness, dizziness, unsteadiness, and could actually worsen your insomnia. Sleep-walking, sleep-driving, sleep-eating, memory lapses, and hallucinations have also been reported. The risk of developing a dependency on the drugs is also a problem. People who are age 55 or older should be cautious about taking sleeping pills because they are at higher risk of all the side effects from these medicines.
Sleeping pills should generally not be used long-term for chronic insomnia. If you have just one or two nights where you can't fall or stay asleep, it's better to try something else besides medication.
That said, people with persistent, chronic insomnia—three or more nights a week for months—should seek treatment. First to rule out whether your insomnia is due to other sleep disorders, medical conditions you have, or medications you take.