Prescription Sleep Meds That May Work When Over-The-Counter Meds Don’t

When you're struggling to sleep, you may start by taking an over-the-counter sleep aid like diphenhydramine or melatonin. Often, this works; the OTC medication ends up being all you need. However, if you are not getting relief from these over-the-counter medications, you shouldn't give up. Instead, talk to your doctor. There are some prescription sleep meds that are stronger, and that may work a bit better for you.


Eszopiclone is a sedative, sleep medication usually prescribed to patients with insomnia. It can help you both fall asleep and stay asleep. Patients who feel like they toss and turn all night without actually falling asleep tend to find eszopiclone helpful. The medication should only be taken for a few weeks in a row, at most, and it is best when taken when the stomach is mostly empty. So, most patients make sure they eat dinner a few hours before bed and then take eszopiclone right before they head off to bed.


If you only have trouble falling asleep but are able to stay asleep once you do fall asleep, then one medication your doctor may recommend is ramelteon. It works similarly to melatonin, causing your body to release hormones and neurotransmitters that help you relax. However, its effects are stronger than those of melatonin. Ramelteon should not be taken with a meal, and the pills need to be swallowed whole. Most people see a vast improvement in their insomnia within a week or two and can then stop taking ramelteon.


Suvorexant is a sleep medication that works by blocking the action of certain neurotransmitters that trigger wakefulness. Since it works so uniquely, it may work for patients who don't respond well to other sleep medications. It can help you both fall asleep and stay asleep. It can be taken with or without food. The downside to suvorexant is that it can be habit-forming. So, most doctors want their patients to only use this medication for a short period of time, and then transition to a less addictive sleep medication if they still need some assistance falling or staying asleep.

If you are struggling with insomnia, there's no need to keep on suffering. A doctor can evaluate your condition and let you know which of these medications is most likely to benefit you. Sometimes, you might have to try a few different drugs before you find "the one," but it's worth it. 

Want to try sleep medicine? Contact a local medical professional to learn more about your options.