Experts recommend trying nondrug means to combat insomnia --such as exercise, stress reduction and avoiding caffeine. But if you must resort to pills, there are ways to minimize the risks:
Get into bed immediately. Sleeping pills can work in 10 to 15 minutes. Never take more than the maximum dose. Never mix sleeping pills with alcohol. And never take them if you are planning to drive.
U.S. sleep-aid prescriptions grew 10% last year, according to IMS Health, thanks in part to Lunesta and other sedative hypnotic drugs, like generic Ambien. Now, an analysis of adverse-event reports filed with the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that some side effects of this generation of sleep medication may be nearly as problematic as the older generation, including Halcion, which was banned in some countries.
Doctors aren't certain what prompts some people to eat, walk, make phone calls or get behind the wheel in their sleep. But some speculate that sleep drugs may act on brain circuits unevenly, leaving the parts that govern automatic behaviors running while shutting down the centers of judgment. "It's like the parents are away and now the little kids can do whatever they want to," says P. Murali Doraiswamy, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical School. "We still don't have a good handle on how common these events are--some people may be particularly vulnerable," he says.
As with most dreams, the events aren't stored in the brain's memory circuits, hence the amnesia.