Several drugs approved for insomnia are in the doghouse these days, and physicians are doing a fair amount of off-label prescribing. What medications should we expect to be prescribed in lieu of zolpidem (Ambien) and temazepam (Restoril)?
Using a “translational approach,” McGill University researchers have reviewed a host of medications with sedative properties and found the evidence base for some is stronger than for others. Here are the drugs they’ve found are most likely to work.
Belsomra, Merck’s new sleeping pill, is now the hottest topic on this blog. Insomnia sufferers who write in with comments are wondering about dosage, effectiveness, side effects, and how it compares with other sleeping pills.
Reviews of Belsomra, or suvorexant, have been lukewarm so far. Since I haven’t tried it myself, I can’t weigh in based on personal experience. But my search for information turned up more than I shared in my blog last August. Here’s a bit of context and more details.
Sleeping pills usually tarnish with age. Zolpidem (Ambien), approved for the treatment of insomnia, is no different.
But a new study from Stanford suggests that low doses of zolpidem may help people recover more quickly from stroke. Here’s the gist of that study, published on December 18 in Brain, and what post-marketing studies tell us about zolpidem used for insomnia.
In the early 1990s, word was spreading that Halcion, a popular short-acting sleeping pill prescribed for insomnia, was a dangerous drug. Not only did it make users anxious, depressed, and suicidal.
It was also implicated in a series of murders. Sales of Halcion plunged. Today the drug is still on the market but is rarely prescribed.
Now zolpidem (Ambien) is receiving intensive post-marketing scrutiny, raising questions about the drug’s safety.
Some people I know are perfectly comfortable taking sleeping pills and would be happy to use them for the rest of their lives. Others say they’re harmful, having a raft of side effects and degrading the quality of sleep we get.
The pros and cons of sleeping pills are too numerous to explore in a blog (I do lay them out in The Savvy Insomniac, my book). But here’s a summary of the numbers of people using sleep meds in the US, which meds we’re using, and who’s using them.
A reader wrote to ask about sleeping pills for middle-of-the-night wake-ups.
“I don’t have a problem getting to sleep,” he explained. “I go jogging with my dog after work and that really tires me out. So I’m out by 10 or 10:30. But I have to go to the bathroom at least once a night, and then I can’t get back to sleep. Sometimes I wake up at 1:30 and I’m awake for the rest of the night! I’m about ready to give up and ask for a sleeping pill. Any thoughts?”
As if it weren’t bad enough that Ambien, a.k.a. zolpidem, can cause sleepwalking, sleep eating, and sleep driving. Now researchers are saying that America’s favorite sleeping pill increases the retention of negative memories. This is not a good thing.