Therapeutic options for sleep-maintenance and sleep-onset insomnia

Pharmacotherapy. 2007 Jan;27(1):89-110. doi: 10.1592/phco.27.1.89.


Insomnia, defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or experiencing restorative sleep with associated impairment or significant distress, is a common condition resulting in significant clinical and economic consequences. Many options are available to treat insomnia, to assist with either falling asleep (sleep onset) or maintaining sleep. We searched MEDLINE for articles published between January 1996 and January 2006, evaluated abstracts from recent professional meetings, and contacted the manufacturer of the most recent addition to the pharmacologic armamentarium for insomnia treatment (ramelteon) to gather information. Nonpharmacologic options include stimulus control, sleep hygiene education, sleep restriction, paradoxical intention, relaxation therapy, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Prescription and over-the-counter drug therapies include benzodiazepine and nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic agents; ramelteon, a melatonin receptor agonist; trazodone; and sedating antihistamines. Herbal and alternative preparations include melatonin and valerian. Before recommending any treatment, clinicians should consider patient-specific criteria such as age, medical history, and other drug use, as well as the underlying cause of the sleep disturbance. All pharmacotherapy should be used with appropriate caution, at minimum effective doses, and for minimum duration of time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Phytotherapy
  • Receptors, Melatonin / agonists
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Trazodone / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Trazodone