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How are benzodiazepines used to treat insomnia?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs that are often used to treat anxiety. Benzodiazepines that are FDA-approved to treat sleep disorders are estazolam, flurazepam, quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril), and triazolam (Halcion). These drugs are meant to be used for short-term treatment, meaning days for some of them, or weeks for others. They should be part of a treatment plan that also includes therapy to improve sleep habits.

Some benzodiazepines work better for certain types of sleep problems. People who have trouble falling asleep may be helped by a drug that acts quickly, such as flurazepam or triazolam. People who often wake too early may be helped by a drug that acts for a longer time, such as flurazepam or quazepam. Because they affect the nervous system in a less focused way than newer sleep drugs, benzodiazepines tend to have more side effects. They can also be habit-forming. 

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