Insomnia affects about 30 percent of adults in America. There are two types of insomnia - primary and secondary insomnia. Normally insomnia is treated by prescription sleeping pills, over-the-counter sleeping aids, or therapy.

The American Academy of Sleep Science (AASM) defines primary insomnia as sleeplessness that cannot be attributed to an existing medical, psychiatric or environmental cause (such as drug abuse or medications). Secondary insomnia can result from a primary medical illness, mental disorder, or sleep disorder. It may also arise if you use or abuse certain substances, or you're exposed to them.

Prescription sleeping pills will help you to fall and stay asleep, but they don't tackle the causes of insomnia. For that purpose, the National Sleep Foundation explains that behavioral sleep medicine experts will pay attention to the details of the problem to determine the cause and decide on the most appropriate treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one treatment that directly targets the causes of insomnia, as can medical testing and treatment for any illness that's contributing to the problem. However, over-the-counter sleeping aids are also available and have been gaining popularity with many people who suffer insomnia.

But, how do you figure out if prescription sleeping pills or sleep aids are right for you? Here are 10 things you need to know about each of these sleep solutions:


1. There are two classes of prescription sleeping pills - those that help you to fall asleep, such as Halcion® or Sonata®;  and those that help you to stay asleep, such as Restoril®. Lunesta® can have both effects.

2. Today's sleeping pills aren't as addictive as those in the past, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, they still have the potential for abuse and dependence.

3. Some prescription sleeping pills are antidepressants. Although commonly used for depression, they can be effective for insomnia in lower doses, states the Mayo Clinic.

4. Prescription sleeping pills have several side effects including constipation, increased drowsiness, dry mouth, headaches, vision problems and weight gain.

5. They are not recommended if you have certain medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease, depression, a respiratory problem - or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.


6. Antihistamine is the main ingredient in over-the-counter sleeping pills, which is commonly found in allergy medications. Histamine is the chemical that keeps you awake.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved sleeping aids that contain one of three antihistamines - diphenhydramine citrate, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, or doxylamine succinate.

7. Over-the-counter sleeping aids are recommended only for occasional sleeplessness or if you have trouble falling asleep, states the AASM. You should not use them for more than a few nights or for severe cases of insomnia.

8. Over-the-counter sleep aids can cause several side effects including daytime sleepiness, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, reduced alertness, and vomiting.

9. Some over-the-counter sleep aids contain pain relievers, and may be more effective if a you have a painful condition that disrupts your sleep such as arthritis, or another immune or musculoskeletal disorder.

10. Non-prescription sleeping pills are recommended for people over age 12. They should not

be taken with alcohol, another antihistamine, a sleeping pill, sedative, or tranquilizer.

If you're experiencing insomnia or occasional sleeplessness that's interfering with your daily activities and quality of life, you should consult your physician. She can recommend tests to determine the cause and decide if therapy, a prescription sleeping pill, or non-prescription sleep aid is the best treatment for you.