Medications are among the most commonly used treatments for insomnia and can be quite effective. However, medications should always be used judiciously and in conjunction with established, non-pharmacological changes to behavior.

See Sleep Medications by Prescription

There are several classes of medications used for sleep, including:

Sleep Aid Guidelines

Most experts recommend taking medications for insomnia only as a last resort after a concerted effort at behavioral techniques has been made.

See Addressing Pain and Medical Problems Disrupting Sleep

In general, it is advisable to try to eliminate all possible causes of sleep problems prior to trying an OTC sleep aid or supplement, such as: 1 Sleep Aids and Insomnia. National Sleep Foundation. Available at Accessed 4 January 2016.

  • The cause of the sleep disorder has been identified and is best treated with medication
  • Sleep apnea has been ruled out
  • Sleeping problems are causing significant problems in daily activities
  • A concerted effort at behavioral approaches has been tried and not been effective

See Potential Side Effects and Adverse Events of Prescription Sleep Medications


For many, short-term use of an OTC sleep medication or supplement can be effective, especially if it is used in combination with behavioral techniques to improve sleep quality and quantity. For people with severe pain and/or chronic pain, insomnia—both in terms of difficulty falling asleep and/or difficulty in staying asleep—can present a significant challenge and even worsen their pain.

See Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene


Getting a restful, restorative night of sleep is an important component of healing and chronic pain treatment, so it is reasonable to consider OTC medications or supplements as a possible approach to addressing sleep problems. That being said, it is imperative to proceed with caution and to carefully research and address possible risks or complications or any OTC sleep aid or supplement.

See Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

Dr. William Deardorff is a clinical health psychologist and specializes in providing psychological services to patients with chronic pain and spinal conditions. He has led a private practice for more than 30 years.