What are Sleeping Pills?

There are many ways to treat different sleeping problems such as insomnia that are combined with good sleeping habits. One of these is the prescription of the correct sleeping pills for your condition. Sleeping pills are called sedative hypnotics that will induce and/or maintain sleep and are classified into four categories; benzodiazepines, barbiturates, non-benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.

Let’s look at each type of sleeping pill and what it does to the body.


Benzodiazepines are not over-the-counter drugs and will need a prescription from the doctor to treat two types of insomnia patterns. The symptoms that are treated over a short period of time include sleep onset and middle waking. When taking these anti-anxiety medications, you will need close supervision from a doctor because benzodiazepines can cause problems with attention and memory and can be addictive. That is why these are not recommended for long-term sleeping problems. Some examples of benzodiazepines are diazepam, estazolam, alprazolam, quazepam, chlodiazepoxide, clorazepate, clonazepam, oxazepam, flurazepam, triazolam, lorazepam, temazepam, midazolam, and clobazam.


Barbiturates also have sedative and hypnotic effects because they inhibit the activities of the brain’s nerve cells. This type of medication was used to treat symptoms of epilepsy and anxiety, but like benzodiazepines, they can be addictive. Today, barbiturates are used only during seizures and as an anesthetic to induce sleep during surgery. Generic names of barbiturates include secobarbital, mephobarbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, amobarbital, and butabarbital.


This type of medication is given only for patients with insomnia and do not need to be taken every night to decrease the time it takes for a person to sleep. The medicine interacts with the receptors that are similar to benzodiazepine to slow down the brain’s activities. The doctor will prescribe non-benzodiazepines only at low doses for short-term insomnia treatment. You might be given any of the following non-benzodiazepines: zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon.


Sometimes antidepressants are recommended to relieve symptoms such as sleep problems, restlessness, and anxiety. There are 6 classes of antidepressants available today, with each type working on specific neurotransmitters. The classes of antidepressants are the following: monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tetracyclic antidepressants, miscellaneous antidepressants, phenylpiperazine antidepressants, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants.

Other Medications

Other medications might also be prescribed to help treat the symptoms of insomnia. These include melatonin and over-the-counter antihistamines like diphenhydramine. Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the body and is involved in the regulation of the circadian rhythm. Melatonin is usually prescribed for older patients and the treatment usually lasts for about 10 weeks. Antihistamines are known for their side-effect that causes drowsiness, that’s why it can be a substitute for sleeping pills. They are also cheap and don’t require prescription, ideal for treating mild insomnia as well as allergies.

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