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What do I need to know about sleep aids?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Although sleep aids are a short-term relief from sleep deprivation, they don't fix the cause and in fact, they often don't provide the kind of deep, natural sleep you really need. But if you do decide to choose them, here's what you need to know.

Common over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids:

  • Diphenhydramine (Sominex, Benadryl, Tylenol PM). Side effects of these drugs include dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness and memory problems. Do not take these drugs if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, or if you have a history of glaucoma, heart problems or an enlarged prostate.
  • Doxylamine (Unisom). Side effects include prolonged drowsiness, and it is not safe if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or have a history of asthma, bronchitis, glaucoma, peptic ulcer or an enlarged prostate.

Many people are afraid to take prescription sleeping pills because of a fear of dependence or overdose. Today's prescription sleeping pills don't carry the same risk as sleeping pills of the past, so don't worry, especially if you don't have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

However, prescription sleeping pills do have some risks, especially for people with kidney or liver disease. As always, discuss any concerns or issues with your doctor.

Common prescription sleep aids:

  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • Ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar)

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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.