Category: Medication

New guideline for sleeping pills may change doctors' prescribing habits

Sleeping Pills: New Prescribing Guidelines

Let’s say you go to the doctor hoping to get a prescription for sleeping pills to relieve your insomnia. You’ve been through cognitive behavioral therapy and it has helped. But there are nights when you’re wound up so tightly that nothing—push-ups, meditation, a hot bath—will calm you down enough so you can get a decent night’s sleep. What then?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently released a clinical practice guideline for the medical treatment of chronic insomnia in adults. Here’s what the academy now recommends.

Melatonin ineffective for insomnia but effective for other sleep problems

Sleep and Health Benefits of Melatonin

As a treatment for chronic insomnia, melatonin supplements disappoint. Internal secretion of melatonin, the hormone of darkness, begins to rise some two hours before you fall asleep. Adding to it with a melatonin supplement is often redundant.

But there’s increasing evidence that melatonin supplementation is effective for some sleep problems and may also help to treat and/or avert serious health conditions. Here’s a summary of the benefits.

Stress-related insomnia may respond to treatment with a beta blocker

A Beta Blocker for Stress-Related Insomnia

Is your insomnia linked to stress? When you go to bed at night, are you suddenly aware of your heart beat, muscle tension, and bodily warmth?

A drug now in the pipeline may one day be available to treat stress-related insomnia—if it measures up to its developers’ expectations.

Older insomniacs may want to scale back on use of over-the-counter sleeping pills

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids Aren’t Harmless

Americans love over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. In 2015 we spent $427 million on products like ZzzQuil, Unisom, and Sominex.

These drugs are advertised “for relief of occasional sleeplessness.” Yet many Americans—particularly older adults—use OTC sleep aids several nights a week and may want to consider scaling back because of the side effects.

Sleeping pills are viewed differently in Australia and the US

Sleeping Pills: Too Risky, or a Red-State, Blue-State Affair?

How do people with insomnia feel about sleeping pills?

Attitudes toward sleep medications differ from one American to the next, and between Americans and Australians, it turns out. Here’s a brief comparison that I hope will start a conversation.

Most antidepressants suppress and delay REM sleep

What’s That Antidepressant Doing to Your Sleep?

Most—but not all—antidepressants tend to suppress and/or delay REM sleep (the stage associated with dreaming). This can be helpful for people with depression.

It’s not necessarily helpful for people with insomnia. In fact, REM sleep irregularities may be a causal factor in insomnia. So it pays to know a bit more about antidepressants if you’re taking them now or before you head down that path.

Fear of insomnia can make some long-term users of sleeping pills afraid to stop them

Going Off Sleeping Pills

Occasionally I hear from long-term users of sleeping pills who suspect the pills are doing more harm than good. Their sleep is not very satisfying and they don’t feel rested during the day.

Here’s why you might want to explore the idea of discontinuing sleeping pills and what to expect if you decide to do it.

new sleeping pills few and far between

Sleeping Pill Update: The Orexin Blockers

Blog posts I’ve written about sleeping pills get a lot of traffic. Among people with sleep problems, interest in drugs to relieve insomnia is high.

Pharmaceutical companies don’t seem to share this interest, though. A quick survey suggests that few companies are actively working on new drugs for the treatment of insomnia. Those with sleeping pills in the pipeline are developing drugs similar to suvorexant (Belsomra). Here’s more about this relatively new class of insomnia drugs.