Hypnotics: Definition, Classes, Types, Uses, Side Effects, Addictive Potential, Natural Options, and Reaction to Alcohol

They are substances that increase drowsiness and cause an individual to sleep or partially lose consciousness.

For this reason, hypnotics can be very helpful in helping people who have difficulty sleeping, such as those with insomnia, sleep.

There are two broad groups of hypnotic medications: benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines. Melatonin has also been suggested as a soporific and appears effective for some patients with sleeping difficulties.

Hypnotics are medications used to help people fall asleep. There are many types of hypnotic drugs, and doctors recommend and prescribe them depending on your sleep problem.

Lifestyle and sleep changes are also effective in treating specific sleep problems. If you have chronic insomnia or trouble sleeping, contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Doctors who specialize in sleep problems (sleep medicine ) can help you determine the cause of your insomnia and treat it. Hypnotic drugs are also called sleeping pills, sleeping pills, or hypnotics.

Hypnotics are drugs designed to induce sleep. The choice of hypnotic depends, in part, on the nature of the individual’s sleep problem (i.e., trouble falling asleep and staying asleep) and in part on the length of the drug’s effectiveness.


There are four approved classes of hypnotics.

  • Benzodiazepine receptor agonist (BzRA).
  • Benzodiazepine receptor agonist with a non-benzodiazepine structure (not BzRA).
  • Selective agonist of the M1 / ​​M2 melatonin receptor.
  • Orexin receptor antagonist.


Doctors prescribe hypnotics to treat insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep problem that can involve difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Inadequate sleep affects mood, energy levels, health, and job performance. Common causes of insomnia are stress, traumatic events, depression, anxiety, and medications. By knowing the cause of your insomnia and treating it, you can reduce the need for sleep medications to help or induce sleep.

Side effects

The side effects of hypnotics depend on the type of hypnotic used. Some common side effects of some hypnotics include:

  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Short-term forgetfulness.
  • Rebound insomnia.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Withdrawal symptoms (for example, anxiety or insomnia).
  • Unpleasant taste.
  • Confusion.
  • Dependence.

Other side effects of hypnotics can include:

  • Dizziness.
  • To.
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Diarrhea.
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Stomach ache.
  • Loss of coordination
  • Drowsiness.
  • Hair loss.
  • Dry Skin.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea.
  • Fatigue.

Possible serious side effects can include:

  • Sleep paralysis.
  • Behavior changes.
  • Abnormal thinking
  • Suicidal thought.
  • Worsening depression.
  • Sleeping while driving and other complex behaviors.
  • Anemia.
  • Urticaria.
  • Exfoliated dermatitis.

Are hypnotics addictive?

Benzodiazepines are addictive hypnotics and are substances controlled by the federal government. People can develop physical dependence after several days of taking them, and the risk is more significant during long-term use.

Doctors must be careful when prescribing benzodiazepines to people with a history of drug abuse or alcoholism because they are more likely to become addicted to benzodiazepines.

Can I drink alcohol if I take a hypnotic drug?

Do not drink alcohol before taking a sleeping medicine, as drinking alcohol while using a sleeping medication or sedative can cause severe drowsiness.

OTC (over-the-counter) hypnotics

Diphenhydramine (for example, Benadryl) and doxylamine (for instance, Unisom) are over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help people fall asleep. These drugs are antihistamines that cause drowsiness and sedation.

Only use these medications for a few days. Talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional if you have insomnia for more than a couple of weeks.

You should read the instructions and warnings before taking OTC sleep medications, as they can have serious adverse effects if not used properly. They can also interfere with the action of other drugs.

Side effects reported by people taking diphenhydramine or doxylamine include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Constipation.
  • Soft spot.
  • Dizziness.

Natural remedies, hypnotic herbs, and hypnotic supplements

Synthetic melatonin capsules, pills, or tablets can help people fall asleep. Melatonin is most often used to treat jet lag.

When used to treat sleep problems, melatonin takes a few days, up to a few weeks to work. Valerian is another supplement available to treat insomnia.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal, natural, or other complementary products for insomnia.

Types of hypnotics (hypnotic drugs)

Five types of hypnotic medications have been approved for the treatment of sleep problems, including:

  • Benzodiazepines.
  • Non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists.
  • Melatonin receptor agonists.
  • Orexin receptor agonist.
  • Antidepressants

These medications are all effective in treating sleep problems, but they work in different ways.

Some sleep medications last only a few hours (short-acting drugs), while others stay longer in the body (long-acting medications).

Doctors and other health professionals choose sleep medications based on the type of sleep problem you have. For example, people who have trouble falling asleep will benefit from a short-acting sleep medication.

People who have trouble staying asleep will benefit the most from long-acting sleep drugs.

List and Examples of Brand Names and Generic Hypnotic Drugs

There are over 40 different sedative / hypnotic drugs available. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional for additional information on the generic forms available.

Melatonin receptor agonists
  • Ramelteon (Rozerem).
  • Prexin receptor antagonist.
  • Suvorexant (Belsomra).
  • Estazolam (Prosom).
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane).
Quazepam (Doral)
  • Temazepam (Restoril).
  • Triazolam (Halcion).
Non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists
  • Eszopiclona (Lunesta).
  • Zaleplon (Sonata).
  • Zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Intermezzo, Zolpimist, Edluar).
  • Doxepin (Selinor).
  • Mirtazapina (Remeron).
  • Trazodona (Oleptra).

The dosage of these medications varies. Talk to your doctor about the exact dose you need to fall asleep.

What drugs or supplements interact with hypnotics?

Combining sleep medications or using other medicines that cause drowsiness will cause severe drowsiness. Stimulants such as amphetamines or coffee can reduce the effect of sleeping medications.

Are these medications safe to take if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

Researchers have not studied the effects of most hypnotics on pregnant women. Therefore, they should not be used if you are pregnant unless necessary.

Pregnant women who have trouble sleeping should try to improve sleep hygiene, relaxation, and ways to reduce stress.

The use of benzodiazepines is harmful to the fetus when pregnant women take it during the first trimester, so you should avoid them if you are pregnant.

Diphenhydramine: May have a low risk of causing harm during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about their use before taking these medications.