Sleep Disorder Drugs
and Sedative Drugs)
Annette (Gbemudu) Ogbru, PharmD, MBA
Dr. Gbemudu received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Nova Southeastern University, her PharmD degree from University of Maryland, and MBA degree from University of Baltimore. She completed a one year post-doctoral fellowship with Rutgers University and Bristol Myers Squibb.
- Sleep disorder drugs (hypnotic and sedative drugs) overview
- For what conditions are hypnotics used?
- Are there differences among hypnotics?
- What are the side effects of hypnotics?
- What are the drug interactions of hypnotics?
- What are some examples of hypnotic medications?
- Nonprescription sleep-aids
- Anti-Parkinson drugs
Sleep disorder drugs (hypnotic and sedative drugs) overview
Insomnia, a disorder in which there is difficulty sleeping, occurs occasionally in most people but usually lasts only a few days. The body then "corrects" itself naturally, and people return to a normal pattern of sleep. Insomnia may be short-term (less than three weeks) or chronic, lasting longer than three weeks. Contributing factors include, but are not limited to, poor sleeping habits, stress, jet lag, medications, disease, and depression. Chronic insomnia may warrant the use of sedative/hypnotics medications; however, it is important that the treating physician perform a complete diagnostic evaluation as well as take medication and substance abuse histories, to determine if it is secondary insomnia due to other conditions that may require treatment. Studies have shown that the best treatment strategies for insomnia include behavioral modifications.
Hypnotic and sedative medications (henceforth referred to as hypnotics) work, in general, by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals made and released by nerves that attach to receptors on other nerves and serve as a means of communication between nerves. Increases in GABA activity in the brain produce drowsiness and facilitate or maintain sleep.
For what conditions are hypnotics used?
Hypnotics are used for the treatment of insomnia which is characterized by difficulties with falling asleep or maintaining sleep. Specific hypnotics such as Intermezzo (zolpidem tartrate) can be used for insomnia involving middle of the night waking followed by difficulty returning to sleep.
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