Main content

    Health Information

    Benzodiazepines for Sleep Problems

    Benzodiazepines for Sleep Problems

    Topic Overview

    Some people may need medicine for a while to help them fall asleep. Doctors often prescribe medicine for a short time if other treatment isn't working. But medicine doesn't work as well over time as lifestyle and behavior changes do. Sleep medicine can also become habit-forming. Medicine works best as a short-term treatment combined with lifestyle and behavior changes.

    Benzodiazepines provide short-term relief from insomnia. These medicines help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Examples are diazepam (such as Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and quazepam (Doral). Side effects of benzodiazepines can include:

    • Dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Sleep problems may get worse when you stop taking the medicine.
    • Daytime drowsiness and dizziness.
    • Physical problems, such as falling, especially in older people.

    Benzodiazepines make it hard to recall memories. They also seem to affect how much of the hormone melatonin your body makes at night. Melatonin helps you sleep and wake up on a regular schedule.

    Caution

    • In rare cases, people taking these medicines have done activities, such as driving and eating, while still asleep.
    • Using some hypnotics may actually make sleep apnea and other breathing disorders worse.
    • These medicines can cause a serious allergic reaction ( anaphylaxis ).

    Credits

    By Healthwise Staff
    Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
    Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
    Last Revised November 18, 2013

    Last Revised: November 18, 2013

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

    1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.