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The entire sequence normally takes about an hour, and the fourth stage is considered the deepest.

After that, people go into what's called rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep.

The disorder can increase the risk for depression and suicidal thoughts, lower work productivity and even raise blood pressure, studies have shown.

Those impressions came from pills used until the 1970s." Three of the top four most commonly prescribed drugs for insomnia were antidepressants, according to Walsh's 2004 article.Five years later, Walsh doubts many of the prescription practices have changed.Side effects for antidepressants can include headache, night sweats, nausea, agitation, sexual problems and dry mouth.Sleep drugs work by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep.Doctors may be factoring in cost considerations and their own familiarity with prescribing antidepressants relative to newer sleep medications, experts said.

Some doctors prescribe antidepressants because their patients have both depression and insomnia.Antidepressants balance the natural chemicals in the brain that are involved in regulating mood.The drugs can block reabsorption of the chemicals, such as serotonin, leaving more available in the brain."There are still a lot of doctors prescribing antidepressants and other sedating medicine for insomnia even though those medicines haven't been studied very well for treatment of insomnia and have some different types of risks," Walsh said.But Balkrishnan said, "You can't put the blame solely on prescribers," adding that some patients insist on certain medications and find ways to obtain those drugs, despite their doctor's best efforts.Despite the availability of a less expensive generic version, many doctors continue to prescribe antidepressants, Mc Call said.