Can’t remember the last time you got a full night of sleep without waking up at least once in the middle of the night?
You’re certainly not alone.
Struggling to stay asleep for a full seven to nine hours is a hallmark of insomnia, the most common sleep disorder reported by adults.
And while briefly waking up and immediately rolling over to fall back asleep isn’t that big of a deal, experiencing multiple wakeups throughout the night or being unable to fall back asleep when your rest is interrupted is a problem.
After all, interrupted sleep means the quality of your sleep is suffering. And you’ll certainly feel this during the daytime.
Gabapentin is one treatment option offered by doctors to not only help you fall asleep faster but stay asleep for a full night of rest – without those disruptive wakeups.
How Does Gabapentin Help You Sleep?
Gabapentin is a prescription anticonvulsant, a medication meant to stop or prevent seizures.
But studies have shown this drug is helpful for more than just that, and it’s commonly prescribed to treat:
- Nerve pain
- Hot flashes
- Teeth grinding
- Restless leg syndrome
This medication boosts deep sleep, the stage of sleep known for improving memory consolidation. It’s also been shown to improve sleep efficiency, or the time spent asleep while you’re in bed, as well as preventing sleep interruptions.
It's believed the medication helps due to the calming effect it promotes, which causes drowsiness.
When used for insomnia, Gabapentin is an off-label prescription. Other common off-label prescriptions doctors turn to to help their patients get back to better sleep include the antihistamine Hydroxyzine and the antidepressant Trazodone.
However, Gabapentin has been approved by the FDA to treat another sleep disorder, known as restless legs syndrome.
This medication is not considered a controlled substance by the federal government; however, it may be listed as one in certain states.
How Is Gabapentin Dosed?
When used for insomnia, most doctors will write a prescription for 100-400 mg of Gabapentin. This should be taken once a day right before you’re ready to go to bed.
In some cases, your doctor may start you off with a lower dose and adjust as needed.
Always be sure to take your prescription as written. Do not change your dosage without first speaking with your doctor.
Some people do report feeling groggy the following morning after taking their medication. Because of this, your doctor will likely recommend that you start your prescription when you don’t have to be anywhere first thing the next morning.
Do not drive or do any activities until you have an understanding of how this medication affects you and what side effects you experience, if any.
How Do I Know What Amount Is Right For Me?
To understand what dose of Gabapentin is best for you, talk with a sleep expert.
During your discussion, your doctor will ask you important questions to determine the right sleep treatment for you, including your medical history and your current medications.
Once given a prescription, or any other sleep aid, always be sure to follow the directions provided.
Your doctor will also likely add non-medication components to your sleep treatment plan to improve your chances of long-term success. These might include improving your sleep hygiene or undergoing CBT.
If your doctor isn't sure that a prescription sleep aid is right for you at this time, they may suggest giving an over-the-counter option a try first, including a supplement like melatonin.
Reviewed by Dr. Alex Dimitriu
Dr. Alex Dimitriu is a Stanford-trained physician with dual board certification in psychiatry and sleep medicine. The included content is not intended to replace medical advice. Always be sure to discuss any prescription medications with your doctor.