Questions & Answers: Sleep problems and Lunesta

Questions & Answers: Sleep problems and Lunesta

Q. I have chronic problems sleeping. I have heard about a new sleep medicine called Lunesta. Does it have any advantages over other sleep drugs?

A. The short answer is that we don't know yet. Eszopiclone (brand name Lunesta) was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2004. The special interest in this drug derives from a large controlled study that found it improved sleep quality for as long as six months. Even people taking it every night did not develop tolerance. That is, they didn't have to keep raising the dose to achieve the desired effect. So Lunesta is the first sleep medication where approval won't be limited to short-term (several days) use.

For many years, the most popular sleep medicines were benzodiazepines like temazepam (Restoril) and lorazepam (Ativan). They are relatively safe and effective, but shouldn't be used as a sleep aid for more than 10 days. Take a benzodiazepine longer than that, and you risk developing tolerance and physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms and rebound insomnia. For some people, there is also a risk of abuse and addiction.

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