1. Fontaine, Gabriel V. PharmD, MBA, BCPS
  2. Der Nigoghossian, Caroline PharmD, BCCCP
  3. Hamilton, Leslie A. PharmD, FCCP, FCCM, BCPS, BCCCP


Sleep plays an important role in the recovery of critically ill patients. However, patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) often suffer sleep disturbances and abnormal circadian rhythms, which may increase delirium and lengthen ICU stay. Nonpharmacologic strategies for preventing and treating sleep disturbances and delirium, such as overnight eye masks and ear plugs, are usually employed first, given the lack of adverse effects. However, a multimodal approach to care including pharmacotherapy may be necessary. Despite the limited available data supporting their use, medications such as melatonin, ramelteon, suvorexant, and dexmedetomidine may promote sleep and improve a variety of patient-centric outcomes such as delirium. This narrative review focuses on these nonbenzodiazepine agents used for sleep in the ICU. Practical application of each of these agents is described for when providers choose to utilize one of these pharmacotherapies to promote sleep or prevent delirium.