What Drugs Make You Sleep?

Understanding Drugs That Induce Sleep

Several drugs can induce sleep, ranging from prescription medications to over-the-counter (OTC) remedies and natural supplements. Prescription drugs typically used for inducing sleep are known as hypnotics or sedatives and include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sleeping pills, and certain antidepressants. Over-the-counter options often involve antihistamines, while natural supplements like melatonin and valerian root are popular for those seeking a more holistic approach.

Prescription Sleep Medications


Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has inhibitory qualities that can calm the brain and nerves. Common benzodiazepines prescribed for sleep include:

– Lorazepam (Ativan)
– Temazepam (Restoril)
– Triazolam (Halcion)
– Estazolam (ProSom)

While effective, these medications can be habit-forming and are not typically recommended for long-term use.

Non-Benzodiazepine Hypnotics

Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, also known as “Z” drugs, target the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines but have a different chemical structure. They tend to have fewer side effects and less potential for dependence. Examples include:

– Zolpidem (Ambien)
– Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
– Zaleplon (Sonata)


Some antidepressants, particularly those with sedative effects, can also be prescribed off-label to treat sleep disorders. Examples include:

– Trazodone (Desyrel)
– Mirtazapine (Remeron)
– Amitriptyline (Elavil)

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids


OTC sleep aids commonly contain antihistamines like diphenhydramine (found in products like Benadryl and Sominex) or doxylamine succinate (found in products like Unisom). These can induce drowsiness by blocking histamine, a neurotransmitter associated with wakefulness.

Natural Sleep Aids

While not as potent as prescription drugs, natural sleep aids are an option for mild to moderate sleep issues.

– Melatonin: A hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Supplementing with melatonin can help cue your body to prepare for sleep.
– Valerian Root: An herbal supplement with mild sedative effects, often used to help with sleep disorders.

Understanding Potential Side Effects

While sleep medications can be helpful, they come with potential side effects and risks. It’s not uncommon for these drugs to cause next-day drowsiness, confusion, memory problems, or even parasomnias, such as sleepwalking. There’s also the risk of dependency, withdrawal symptoms, and tolerance, meaning you might need to increase the dosage over time to achieve the same effects.

Sleep Hygiene and Behavioral Changes

Due to these risks, many sleep specialists recommend exploring improvements in sleep hygiene and behavioral changes before resorting to pharmacological solutions:

– Establish a regular sleep schedule
– Create a relaxing bedtime routine
– Keep the bedroom quiet, dark, and cool
– Avoid caffeinated beverages close to bedtime
– Limit exposure to screens an hour before sleep

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike pills, CBT-I addresses the underlying causes of insomnia.

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Consulting with Healthcare Providers

It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any sleep medication. They can help diagnose any underlying conditions causing sleep issues and recommend the most appropriate and safe treatment options. Always discuss the potential risks and benefits, including the likelihood of dependency and the plan for treatment duration.

Special Populations

For pregnant women, individuals with a history of substance abuse, or those with certain medical conditions, sleep medications may not be appropriate. A healthcare provider can help navigate safe options for these individuals.

Finishing Thoughts

In conclusion, various drugs can make you sleep, ranging from powerful prescription medications to milder over-the-counter options and natural supplements. While these can be effective tools in managing sleep disorders, they carry their own set of risks and side effects. Consequently, it’s often recommended to prioritize good sleep practices and non-pharmacological interventions like CBT-I. Always seek the guidance of a healthcare provider to determine the safest and most effective pathway to improved sleep. Remember, quality sleep is an achievable goal, and with the right approach, you can find the solution that works best for you.


  • Leo Murray

    Hey, I'm Leo Murray, your friendly guide to the galaxy of great sleep at GoodlSleepHub. As a certified Sleep Therapist with a lively spirit for all things restful, I'm here to take the mystery out of your zzz's. My mission is to make good sleep accessible to everyone, mixing solid science with a dash of humor. When not demystifying sleep cycles or hunting down the best mattresses, I'm an avid mountain biker and a coffee connoisseur. My weekends often involve exploring new trails or experimenting with coffee blends. These adventures fuel my philosophy: great days are born from great nights. So, come along as we journey through the night skies of sleep. I promise to keep it informative, light-hearted, and always focused on getting you the restful sleep you deserve. Remember, in Leo's world, every night is an opportunity for a perfect dream!

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