Common Medications and Treatments for Insomnia

There are two approaches to insomnia therapy: non-medical (behavioral) and medical (drug prescriptions). Combining these two therapies has been proven to be more effective than either one alone.

Prior to initiating any protocol for insomnia therapy, however, it is crucial to address any medical problems or related conditions that are causing insomnia if an etiology can be found.

There are several simple steps one can implement to promote sleeping behavior. These include:

  • Keep a regular schedule
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening
  • Do not consume alcohol before bedtime
  • Do not smoke in the evening
  • Resolve stress and anxiety
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not go to bed hungry or consume too much at bedtimes
  • Alter bedroom ambiance to promote sleep (e.g. control lighting, remove all noise)
  • Keep a sleep log
  • Take up yoga
  • Biofeedback techniques


Medical treatment (nonprescription)

Drug How it works
 Melatonin  Made by the pineal gland in darknessHelps regulate circadian (day-night) cycle
 Antihistamines  Induce sleepiness
 St. Johns Wort  May induce sleepiness (no scientific proof)
 Chamomile  May induce sleepiness (no scientific proof)
 Valeriana officinalis (Valerian)  May provide relief in patients with chronic insomnia


Medical treatment (prescription)

Drug How it works
 Ramelteon  Stimulates melatonin receptorsPromotes sleep onset

Regulates circadian rhythm disorders

 Benzodiazepine Sedatives  Subjective improvement in amount and quality of sleep
Nonbenzodiazepine Sedatives  Subjective improvement in amount and quality of sleep
 Antidepressants   Sedative in those with depressionMay be ineffective in those without depression