June 29, 2016
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Sleep Disorder Medications (cont.)

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Medical Editor:

Are there differences among hypnotics?

There are a variety of hypnotics that are used for treating insomnia. The main difference among the various hypnotics is their half-life, that is, how long the drug is active in the body.

  • The half-life determines the type and duration of hypnotic effects and the unwanted side effects.
  • When hypnotic drugs have long half-lives, the drug itself or the chemicals that the body makes from the drug tend to accumulate with nightly use, and the accumulation can cause impairment of normal day-time functions involving thought and motor skills.

There also is a larger risk of interactions with other drugs due to a carry-over effect of the hypnotic drug. In contrast, when hypnotic drugs with short half-lives are taken, the drugs are cleared from the body before the next dose is ingested or other drugs are taken, hence the carry-over effects are minimal or absent and do not affect thought and motor skills.

What are the side effects of hypnotics?

Side effects of hypnotics include:

  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Talkativeness
  • Apprehension
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Euphoria
  • Relaxed feeling
  • Weakness
  • Tremor
  • Lack of concentration
  • Disorders of coordination
  • Depression
  • Dreaming/nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pains
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Abnormal behaviors during sleep including sleep walking and other sleep related activities

Side effects involving the stomach and intestines include:

If any of these side effects persist or worsen, a physician should be notified promptly.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2016


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