What should I do if my sleep medication is not working?

This question was asked in Kagel Canyon, California on 11/16/2012.
I am 61 years old and have a decreasing ability to sleep. My doctor has prescribed Sonata, then Ambien, and Xanax for the related anxiety. At first they were working, but lately (within the last 6 months), after taking 2mg Xanax WITH 10mg Ambien, I'm only able to stay asleep for 3 to 3-1/2 hrs. I tried 2 nights to sleep with no meds, but only managed to sleep for an hour or two per night. I know I snore and sometimes it wakes me up; other times I have nightmares where I think I'm about to die. Needless to say I'm at a loss (no pun intended). Can you help me? What should I do?

Doctors Answers (3)

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 11/21/2012

Sleep loss is a painful experience and I so understand your situation. You really need to see a sleep physician as they are trained to help persons like you. There are a number of reasons you may not be sleeping well, one is sleep apnea that can be treated. But there are a lot of other sleep disorders. I would encourage you to find a doctor in your area that could help you. You can go on the American Academy of Sleep Physisians to get a registry.

Marjorie Yong, M.D.
Answered on: 11/19/2012

You need to have a sleep test done because I believe you have a serious sleep abnormality. The only way we can know for sure what we are dealing with medically is to observe your sleep. You are smart to be worried. Sleeping only 3.5 hours a night is not sufficient for complete restorative sleep.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 11/19/2012

You sound as if you may have several conditions affecting your sleep and may have more than one sleep disorder. You should make an appointment with a sleep specialist for diagnostic testing and also may benefit from referral to a neuropsychologist who specializes in the non-pharmacologic treatment of insomnia. A visit to your primary care physician to assess you physically for any potential medical conditions may also be of benefit.