Sedating antidepressants are widely used for insomnia, but are not officially licensed for this indication. Currently doxepin is the only antidepressant approved by the U. When you loop in drugs meant to combat depression, your sleep habits can change even more.“It depends on the antidepressant—some can be alerting, while some can be sedating,” Breus says.“Generally speaking, these medications affect neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine,” which are important for regulating your emotions, board-certified sleep medicine doctor and neurologist W. D., of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of , tells SELF. “All of these chemicals are big players in the pathways of maintaining or initiating sleep, or chemicals that help you feel awake during the day,” Winter says.
This column reviews the safety and efficacy of these agents, including suggestions and concerns about their use from the 2005 State of the Science Conference on Insomnia sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Diphenhydramine is the most common antihistamine used non-prescription sleep aids. Certain antihistamines indicated only for allergies, such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or hydroxyzine (Atarax or Vistaril) may also be used as mild sleep-inducers.
Some drugs contain diphenhydramine alone (such as Nytol, Sleep-Eez, and Sominex), while others contain combinations of diphenhydramine with pain relievers (such as Anacin P. Unfortunately, most of these drugs leave patients feeling drowsy the next day and may not be very effective in providing restful sleep.
These drugs include benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines. Sedative hypnotics carry risks for withdrawal, dependency, and rebound insomnia.
The chance of risk for these problems varies among different drugs. Many over-the-counter sleeping medications use antihistamines, which cause drowsiness. Doxylamine (Unison) is another antihistamine used in sleep medications.