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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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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.