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Best Prescription Sleeping Pills in Uk To Manage Insomnia

guy having problem sleeping

Getting enough sleep is beneficial for a healthy life. Good quality sleep is what everyone craves, no matter the age group. You should know how much sleep you need for a better lifestyle.

Often, many people sacrifice sleep for their work and other reasons. Stress overcomes your sleep, and it affects your health. If you cannot sleep for a reasonable time, you may face higher risks of developing obesity, blood pressure, heart disease, and poor mental health. 

Some people naturally sleep for at least 7-8 hours, and some need support for sleeping. It is a red flag if someone is facing issues during sleep regularly. For those facing such problems, sleeping pills are commonly used to treat insomnia, which would be helpful for a night of extended sleep. 

Sleeping pills would make you confused or tired during the daytime. There are different possibilities of a person walking in the sleep or eating, known as parasomnia. So, it is mainly advised to consume sleeping pills at night. Is it a good decision for you to sacrifice sleep? If your answer is no, then this article is for you.  

In one of our previous posts, We analyzed prescribing patterns for antidepressant drugs in the UK, where a sharp increase in antidepressant use in the UK is seen. In today’s post, We will be looking at prescribing statistics for prescription sleeping pills used for the treatment of insomnia.

Prescribing data used for this review was taken from OpenPrescribing.net

What Are Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills are used for sleep purposes for those suffering from sleep issues known as sleep disorders or insomnia. 

Sleeping pills work on the body by activating GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid) receptors. It works by receiving the chemicals from the medicine and lessening the nerve impulses. It functions directly on the brain and helps you fall asleep. 

Benzodiazepine Sleeping Pills

Benzodiazepine is a drug class known as tranquilizers (used for relieving tension or anxiety). It is also used to treat sleeping disorders, one of the most prescribed medicines in the USA. 

Benzodiazepine is used as a sleeping pill that works by neurotransmitters transmitting messages to the brain cells.  The brain gets a soothing effect after consumption.

Medication that is used as sleeping pills from class of benzodiazepine are as follows:

  1. Diazepam
  2. Lorazepam
  3. Oxazepam 
  4. Nitrazepam
  5. Clonazepam

Non-Benzodiazepines Sleeping Pills

A new class of medication has been introduced in recent years, which is non-benzodiazepine. Based on a study, it is demonstrated to be safer and does not have such severe side effects. This type of medication tends to work on the body fast and results in quick sleep. Its products are similar to the benzodiazepine drug class. However, it is not recommended to use for a long time. Please consult with a medical doctor for the best treatment period for you.

Medicines that include non-benzodiazepines are as follows:

  1. Zolpidem (Ambien)
  2. Zaleplon (Sonata)
  3. Eszopiclone (Lunesta)

The Best Sleeping Pills For Insomnia

Pharmacological treatment is not recommended as a first-line treatment of insomnia.

Hypnotics, the main class of drugs used in insomnia, are only recommended after appropriate hygiene advice is given to patients, including the CBT approach. However, if insomnia is severe, for example, causing distress or affecting day to day life short term (less than 4 weeks), pharmacological treatment may be recommended (NICE, 2015).

The main prescription drugs recommended for treating insomnia include (ibid):

  • Short-acting benzodiazepines — temazepam, loprazolam, lormetazepam.
  • Non-benzodiazepines (the ‘z-drugs‘) — zopiclone, zolpidem, and zaleplon (all are short acting).

Tolerance (reduced effectiveness) to hypnotics can develop rapidly. Hypnotics may also cause dependence, rebound insomnia (symptoms of insomnia coming back after treatment is stopped), and withdrawal syndrome (BNF, 2019). Because of that, a short term use is only recommended.

Statistics Of Prescription Sleeping Pills Uk

Prescription sleeping pills

1. Zopiclone


Zopiclone is the most commonly prescribed hypnotic drug for sleeping, with 5.2 Million prescriptions issued in 2018. Zopiclone is considerably more popular than any other sleeping drug available on prescription. Over the last 4 years, there have been some fluctuations in prescribing and buying Zopiclone online.

However, since 2014, this number was always over 5 mln prescriptions per year, and no significant decrease in prescribing can be seen. The brand name for Zopiclone is Imovane. It is one of the most strongly addictive medicines. Zopiclone takes approximately 1 hour to work on the body and makes you sleep.

2. Eszopiclone

Eszopiclone will make you sleep quicker, for a longer duration, and prevent you from getting up in between. It can be mostly used for 1 or 2 weeks. The brand name for Eszopiclone is Lunesta. Consume the medicine only when you have 7 to 8 hours of sleep; otherwise, it will create problems in the daytime. It will take approximately 1 hour to work on your body.

3. Zolpidem


Zolpidem promotes sleep in a calming way, known as a hypnotic drug. Medicine compounds that are included can make you fall asleep. The brand name for Zolpidem is Ambien.

You can take the medication for 4 weeks, the common side effects would be dry mouth, and it takes only 1 hour to work on your body. 

4. Temazepam

Second, the most commonly prescribed drug for sleeping is Temazepam, with 0.99 mln prescriptions issued for this drug in 2018. Prescribing of temazepam decreased significantly over the last four years. This is mainly due to the reclassification of temazepam in 2015. Temazepam became a Schedule 3 controlled drug in 2015.

5. Nitrazepam

Nitrazepam is beneficial for people suffering from sleep disorders. Nitrazepam restores the sleeping cycle. It will help you increase your focusing power. Nitrazepam should be started with the lowest dose possible. The brand name for Nitrazepam is Aloform. This medication works within 30 minutes.

6. Zaleplon

Zaleplon can be used by people who are suffering from falling half asleep. It is not beneficial for you if you cannot sleep throughout the night. It will help you sleep faster. The brand name for Zaleplon is Sonata. It is one of the fastest medicines that will make you sleep.  The half-life of Zaleplon is 1 hour.

7. Melatonin

The third most commonly prescribed drug for insomnia is Melatonin. Melatonin does not belong to a hypnotic class of drugs. Instead, it is classified as hormonal therapy. Melatonin is the only drug in the group of sleeping tablets where prescribing is on the increase. The number of prescriptions issued for melatonin has doubled since 2014, and last year this number was 0.9 mln prescriptions. Melatonin is a commonly available over the counter sleeping pill; its also available without a prescription in the US; however, it is a prescription drug in the UK. The only formulation available (Circadin 2 mg prolonged-release tablets) is licensed for short-term insomnia treatment in patients aged 55 or over.

Please be advised to consult with a medical doctor for an approved prescription. Do not ingest sleeping pills if not being prescribed with the correct dose and treatment regime for your condition. None of the drugs above made it into the 15 Most Prescribed Drugs in the UK.

Hypnotics prescribing 2014-2018 (items)
Drug 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Loprazolam 51,740 50,746 45,554 40,562 36,407
Lormetazepam 28,863 27,899 24,939 22,342 19,829
Melantonin 395,806 530,467 647,751 767,058 898,534
Nitrazepam 667,456 657,098 591,777 526,926 472,576
Temazepam 1,507,310 1,411,142 1,257,983 1,113,838 991,446
Zolpidem 669,106 725,127 716,144 686,199 658,068
Zopiclone 5,144,903 5,599,878 5,560,784 5,416,055 5,242,138

Overall, there have been no significant changes in prescribing hypnotics for the treatment of insomnia in the last 4 years. Temazepam prescribing decreased significantly, but this was compensated with an increase in Melatonin defining.

This is a broad overview of prescribing sleeping drugs in the UK. Some drugs line Diazepam were not included in this review. Diazepam is a commonly prescribed drug in the UK, with 4.9 mln prescriptions issued in 2018. Diazepam can be prescribed for insomnia associated with anxiety; however, it’s licensed to manage a number of other conditions, including severe tension, muscle spasm, cerebral palsy, and others. Diazepam is not routinely recommended for the treatment of insomnia. Therefore analysis of its use as a sleeping drug is beyond the scope of this post.

Similarly, antidepressant drugs such as amitriptyline and mirtazapine are commonly used to treat depression where sedation is required. Both drugs were excluded from this analysis.

Advantages Of Sleeping Pills

Most of the medications are prescribed based. Sleeping pills are not classified as good or bad but can provide you with a few benefits, such as:  

  • Short-term Effectiveness

It will be effective for people who want their sleeping schedule back. Sleeping pills will help you get to rest for a reasonable amount of time. Sleeping pills are addictive once taken for some time, so only ingesting sleeping pills for the short term will benefit your overall health.

  •   Sleep Fast

When you are highly stressed out, not having enough sleep will occur. If this is the case for you, sleeping pills can be a win-win situation. It will make you sleep as fast as possible, depending on the type of medicine you consume. This will maintain your overall quality of life positively. 

  • Helps With People Who Struggles With Certain Sleep Disorders

People severely affected by sleep disorders can harm their physical, emotional, and mental health. If you are someone who has not slept properly for weeks and months, sleeping pills will be a source for you to get enough sleep. Sleeping pills can give you much relief from your deprived sleep. 

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

As there are benefits to sleeping pills, there are also side effects to be aware of. These include:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe headache
  • Weakness throughout the body.
  • Strange dreams.

Can You Buy Prescription Sleeping Pills Online?

Medication-related to insomnia should be taken after a prescription if you suffer from regular sleep issues. Sleeping pills can be taken over the counter as well. 

You can get different medications at different prices. You can get sleeping pills online from the sites mentioned below. However, please be advised to take sleeping pills only to avoid addiction habits.