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Understanding Insomnia Medications (cont.)

Drug Therapy Options for Insomnia

Sedative-hypnotic drugs do not cure insomnia, but they may relieve symptoms. Short-term use (2-3 weeks) of sleeping pills may be warranted for chronic insomnia while other treatments or behavioral therapies are being started.

The choice of sedative-hypnotic depends on the type of sleep problem. If an individual has trouble falling asleep, a quick-acting but short-lasting drug such as zolpidem (Ambien) may be prescribed. Zolpidem tartrate (Intermezzo), a lower dose formulation of Ambien, can be used to treat insomnia characterized by middle-of-the-night waking followed by difficulty returning to sleep. In general, these types of drugs are useful because they may be taken after several hours of trying to fall asleep, yet the effects do not last long enough to cause difficulty waking in the morning.

Drugs that have longer-lasting actions, such as flurazepam (Dalmane), temazepam (Restoril), estazolam (ProSom), and antidepressants, are more useful for individuals who wake up after initially falling asleep.

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Insomnia is defined as repeated difficulty with the initiation, duration, maintenance, or quality of sleep that occurs despite adequate time and opportunity for sleep that results in some form of daytime impairment.

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