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Benzodiazepine Hypnotics
(Restoril, Dalmane, ProSom, Halcion)

What are they? These prescription drugs are the sedatives that have traditionally been used to treat insomnia, and are still often given to patients in hospitals.

How long can you take them? Generally, seven to ten days.

Do they work? Yes, especially for patients who have trouble staying asleep all night. But because they alter REM patterns (as well as non-REM phases), they can lead to poorer quality sleep and next-day "hangovers," with grogginess, slurred speech, and coordination problems. Halcion has been linked to depression, amnesia, hallucinations, and anxiety, although reviews by both the FDA and the Institute of Medicine, an independent group that advises the government, have concluded that the drug is safe when taken in the approved dosages. For all the benzodiazepines, there are risks, especially when taken in higher doses or for longer than prescribed; in particular, these drugs can be addictive.
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