What medications can safely help me sleep?

If you have taken all the healthy steps above and you still are unable to sleep soundly, you may want to take something to help you sleep. Do not drink alcohol to get to sleep. Alcohol just makes you wake up early in the morning and makes it harder to get to sleep tomorrow. In fact, alcohol is one of the biggest causes of sleep problems in this country.

Furthermore, over the counter sleeping pills and PM products from the drugstore probably do more harm than good. It would be an easy thing to get a prescription sedative or hypnotic (sleeping pill) from your doctor, but you should think before taking these medications. They can further disturb your sleep cycle, cause daytime sedation, and impair your memory, among other things (see Chapter 7, What If Your Antidepressant Doesn’t Work?, for more information on sedatives).

The best solution for improving sleep that is disturbed by unipolar major depression is to strengthen your medical and psychotherapeutic treatment and get well faster. If you really need something to help make you sleepy while you heal, try Benadryl (diphenhydramine), an antihistamine available over the counter at your drugstore, or Desyrel (trazodone), a prescription antidepressant that also helps bring on sleep. Neither medication is licensed as a sleeping pill.