yes, therapy helps!
The 8 most used types of hypnotic drugs

The 8 most used types of hypnotic drugs

July 18, 2024

From clinical psychology insomnia problems, whether they are of conciliation or sleep maintenance, are preferably treated by behavioral techniques such as stimulus control, sleep hygiene and Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation.

However, in cases of severe insomnia or resistance to psychological therapy it may be necessary to combine it with the use of medications. In this article we will talk about the most commonly used and known types of hypnotic drugs .

  • Related article: "Types of psychotropic drugs: uses and side effects"

The most used hypnotic drugs

Next, we will describe the most common groups of hypnotic medications in the present and in the second half of the 20th century. Although today Benzodiazepine analogues are the pharmacological treatment of choice for insomnia In some places, classic hypnotics such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates are still used.


It is important to bear in mind that not all these drugs are used to treat insomnia, but some of them are very powerful and specific medications for the management of other disorders. We include these cases in the list because of the significance of the hypnotic effects associated with their use or their relevance in the history of sleeping pills.

1. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines include some of the most commonly used drugs to treat insomnia symptoms, especially short-lived variants. However, the long-term use of these drugs entails risk of dependence and withdrawal syndrome, as it acts similarly to alcohol , and just like this one ends up altering the dream.


The use of benzodiazepines as hypnotics has been in decline since the 90s, when the benzodiazepine analogues were developed, which we will refer to in the following section. Currently, drugs in this class are used primarily to treat symptoms of anxiety and alcohol withdrawal for short periods of time.

  • Related article: "Benzodiazepines (psychodrugs): uses, effects and risks"

2. Benzodiazepine analogs (Z drugs)

Benzodiazepine analogs are drugs with properties very similar to those of benzodiazepines, although they can not be classified in this group because they have a different chemical structure. In recent years they have become the most used hypnotics in many places in the world given that they have been given high security.

Three drugs stand out in this category: zolpidem, zaleplon and eszopiclone. Another of the most known Z drugs, zopiclone, has been withdrawn in some countries because of its side effects, which on the other hand are not very different from those of benzodiazepines.


3. Orexin receptor antagonists

Various recent medications t They have antagonistic effects on neuropeptide receptors called orexin or hypocretin , which is associated with alertness and wakefulness, as well as appetite. The degree of effectiveness of these drugs has yet to be assessed, although the use of Suvorexant has been approved and the research around the Lemborexant is promising.

4. Barbiturates

Barbiturates were the drugs most commonly used to treat insomnia until the appearance of benzodiazepines, which cause fewer side effects. Currently, different types of barbiturates are used as surgical anesthetics and as anticonvulsants in cases of epilepsy, but its application as hypnotics has become very unusual .

The continued use of these drugs carries a high risk of physical and psychological dependence, which in turn explains the intense withdrawal syndrome associated with barbiturates. Another factor that contributed to the loss of popularity of these medications was the worrying number of suicides due to overdose.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Barbiturates: effects, mechanisms of action and toxicity"

5. Quinazolinones

Quinazolinones are chemical compounds with diverse medical properties: they can have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal and anticonvulsant effects. In addition, the anticancer properties of some quinazolinones, such as Idelalisib, have been investigated, although these studies have been abandoned because of side effects.

In the 1960s and 1970s it was very popular the Metacualona, ​​better known by its trade name "Quaalude" . This hypnotic drug was widely used as a recreational drug during this time, especially in nightclubs.

6. Anesthetics

Medications that are used as anesthetics are often considered to be members of the same category as hypnotics and sedatives. Within this group we find propofol, etomidate and ketamine; the first two are frequently administered to people, while ketamine is more commonly used in veterinary medicine.

7. Cannabinoids

Chemical compounds derived from cannabis, such as tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, are sometimes used as psychotropic drugs because of their sedative, hypnotic and analgesic properties. In recent years, drugs have been developed from marijuana which involve a relatively low risk of dependence.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Research reveals why marijuana can cause schizophrenia"

8. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that intervenes in the regulation of biological rhythms, especially in the sleep-wake cycle. Currently there are medicines based on melatonin that They are used as an alternative treatment for insomnia ; however, and despite the ease of access to these products, they must be used with a prescription.


Sedative and Hypnotic Drugs: Overview – CNS Pharmacology | Lecturio (July 2024).


Similar Articles