Best Over-The-Counter Sleep Aid 2019 - SleepingCulture.com

Best Over-The-Counter Sleep Aid

For many people, over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids are usually the initial step to finding a solution to insomnia or sleeplessness. When first experiencing trouble falling or staying asleep, most people will head to a pharmacy or drug store before seeking heavy-duty treatment from a doctor. There are many OTC sleep aids on the market, including both natural supplements and drugs, and that can be overwhelming or helpful depending on your situation. Typically, sleeplessness occurs as a result of a medical condition or stress, and there are many sleep aids to address either cause. Having choices of sleep aids allows you the freedom to try different options to see what works best for you, as well as giving you the opportunity to find the best sleep aid that fits with your health.

Quick Look at Our Top 9 Picks

While insomnia can be a nuisance, it can also have serious effects on our overall health and wellbeing. Not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain, an inability to think clearly and make decisions, sickness due to a weakened immune system, depression, increased blood pressure, hormone disfunction, and increased risk of heart disease, among others. Living a healthy lifestyle can address all of these as well as sleeplessness, but for some people, an over-the-counter sleep aid is an option to take into consideration.

Sleep & Our Health

Because sleep is a vital piece of our overall health and wellbeing, it is necessary to ensure you are getting the proper quality and quantity of sleep on a consistent basis. According to WebMD, the average adult should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but that range can vary depending on the person. Some people have found that need more sleep to feel rested and fully functioning during the day, while other have found that they feel this way after only 6 hours of sleep per night. There are other exceptions as well—pregnant women, children, or people with certain medical conditions generally need more sleep than the average adult.

An important point to remember is that our bodies never become accustomed to a lack of sleep, so if you lose sleep one night, you will need more sleep the next night to make up for it, and that is difficult to accomplish with an already full schedule. Try to keep track of how much sleep you get at night and how you feel during the day to determine your personal nightly sleep goal. If you feel drowsy during the day at work or personal obligations, you may need to schedule in some more time to rest.

A frequently overlooked factor that influences sleep is overall wellbeing. Living a healthy lifestyle can help ensure that your body is functioning the way it should be, including being able to fall and stay asleep. If you are eating unhealthy foods, smoking, consuming alcohol, or not exercising, for example, your health suffers in many ways, sleep being one of them. Maintaining healthy habits, such as exercising, eating right, and generally taking care of yourself can help alleviate sleeplessness.

Similarly, good sleep habits play a big role in your health and the quality and quantity of your sleep. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same times consistently, making sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep, and avoiding certain activities before bed. Sticking to the same bed time and wake time each day, even on the weekends, will train your body to sleep when it is time to sleep. Additionally, your bedroom should be set up as the ideal sleep environment: calm, cool, dark, and silent, rid of anything that has lights, moves, or makes noise. Finally, prepare your mind and body for bedtime by taking a bath or shower, reading or writing in a journal, drinking herbal tea, or meditating; it is best to avoid being active, eating, or working before bed.

Over-The-Counter Sleep Aids

Sometimes, living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining good sleep habits may not be enough to overcome sleeplessness caused by stress or a medical condition. In those cases, an over-the-counter sleep aid could be your solution.

Sleep aids are drugs or supplements that are intended to treat insomnia by helping the user fall asleep quickly, stay asleep all night, and wake up rested in the morning. There are several OTC sleep aid varieties, but usually they fall into one of two categories based on their ingredients: natural or unnatural. Both types are meant to be used on a temporary basis for those people who experience occasional insomnia, not as a permanent solution. For more serious cases of insomnia, it is best to consult a doctor for advice, rather than using OTC sleep aids on a regular, consistent basis.

Unnatural OTC sleep aids most often contain diphenhydramine HCI or doxylamine succinate as their active ingredients. These two drugs are very similar. First, they are both antihistamines. Antihistamines are well known for treating allergies and having drowsiness as a side effect. When used as sleep aids, that side effect actually becomes the desired effect.

Diphenhydramine HCI and doxylamine succinate are also known to share many of the same side effects, which are oftentimes referred to as “hangover effects”. Dry mouth, blurred vision, drowsiness during the day, constipation, and general unwell feeling, among others, have been documented as the common side effects of drugs that contain the ingredients diphenhydramine HCI or doxylamine succinate. Similarly, these ingredients carry with them some risk for dependency on, or tolerance for, the drug.

Natural OTC sleep aids also share many of the same ingredients, all of which are sourced from our bodies or the outdoors. The ingredients you will most likely find some combination of are melatonin, valerian (or valerian root), chamomile, passionflower, hops, magnesium, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Each of these ingredients is included for their ability to create drowsiness, and soothing feelings of relaxation that can help users fall asleep and stay asleep. Since natural OTC sleep aids usually come in the form of supplements, they are not strictly regulated by the FDA, so there is a small risk that they could be made improperly, contain the incorrect dosage, or have the wrong ingredients. Despite this, these sleep aids are considered to be safer to consume on a more regular basis because the ingredients are naturally occurring.

What Are the Top Nine Over-The-Counter Sleep Aids?

Here is a summary of the top nine OTC sleep aids, both unnatural and natural, and each offers a unique combination of desirable features and options. All of these products are highly rated, and sleep tested.

Member’s Mark Sleep Aid

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The Member’s Mark Sleep Aid is a maximum strength, over-the-counter sleeping pill with the active ingredient diphenhydramine HCI (50mg). Other ingredients include white and blue coloring, gelatin, glycerin, light mineral oil, polyethylene, glycol, purified water, and sorbitol-sorbitan. This product allows its users to fall asleep fast and sleep soundly all night with the help of the drowsy qualities of an antihistamine. This sleep aid is available in softgel form and is offered at a discount when purchasing two 96-count bottles together.

Pros:

  • Highly effective
  • Easy to swallow
  • Becomes effective within 30 minutes
  • Non-habit forming

Cons:

  • May cause odd dreams
  • May produce “hangover” effects

Unisom SleepGels

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Like the Member’s Mark Sleep Aid, Unisom SleepGels have the active ingredient diphenhydramine HCI (50mg) and inactive ingredients gelatin, blue coloring, glycerin, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl acetate, phthalate, propylene glycol, sorbitol, titanium dioxide, and water. Unisom SleepGels help you forget about anxiety and stress and allow you to achieve restful sleep all night. This sleep aid comes in packs of 60 softgels with one softgel being the recommended dose.

Pros:

  • Highly effective
  • Easy to swallow
  • Non-habit forming

Cons:

  • May produce “hangover” effects
  • May not work for everyone

Kirkland Signature Sleep Aid

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This over-the-counter sleep aid contains the antihistamine doxylamine succinate as its active ingredient. Other ingredients in this product include dicalcium phosphate, blue coloring, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, and sodium starch glycolate. It helps its users become drowsy, then fall and stay asleep. Each pack of the Kirkland Signature Sleep Aid contains 96 tablets and the recommended dosage is one tablet.

Pros:

  • Body will not become tolerant to the drug
  • Becomes effective within 45 minutes
  • Highly effective

Cons:

  • May cause grogginess in the morning if you sleep less than 8 hours
  • Safe for adults only

Vicks ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep Aid

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ZzzQuil is a popular OTC sleep aid with the trusted Vicks brand reputation. It does not treat illness or aches and pains like the other Vicks products; it only helps its users get restful sleep. The active ingredient is diphenhydramine HCI, which is an antihistamine that creates a drowsy feeling. This product also contains the ingredients red and blue coloring, gelatin, glycerin, polyethelene glycol, purified water, and sorbitol-sorbitan solution. ZzzQuil is available in packs of 48 LiquiCaps.

Pros:

  • Becomes effective within 20 minutes
  • Won’t leave you feeling groggy
  • Highly effective

Cons:

  • May allow you to wake up in the middle of the night
  • Safe for adults only

Natural Factors Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep

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This natural, OTC sleep aid is made with 100% natural ingredients including melatonin, l-theanine, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is an amino acid that works as a precursor to melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone in our body that regulates sleep cycles, and l-theanine is an amino acid that has a calming effect. Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep also contains sugar, magnesium stearate, natural fruit flavors, and citric acid. This sleep aid comes in chewable tablet form, and the recommended dosage is 2 tablets before bed.

Pros:

  • Becomes effective within 40 minutes
  • Highly effective
  • Energetic feeling in the morning
  • Safe for children
  • Relieves anxiety

Cons:

  • May contain too much sugar/sweetness

Peak Life Somnapure Natural Sleep Aid

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The Somnapure Natural Sleep Aid is a well-known and effective sleep aid. It has been clinically tested and contains high-quality, all-natural ingredients to ease your anxiety and help you fall asleep. The active ingredients are valerian root, lemon balm, l-theanine, hops, chamomile flower, and passionflower for relaxation and drowsiness, and melatonin to help you stay asleep all night. This product comes in tablet form and is available in 30 or 60 count bottles with the recommended dosage being 2 tablets per night.

Pros:

  • Highly effective
  • Becomes effective within 30 minutes
  • Relieves anxiety

Cons:

  • May cause heart to race
  • Tablets may have unpleasant smell

Hyland’s Homeopathic Calms Forté Sleep Aid

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The Calms Forté Sleep Aid helps users achieve quality sleep while relieving anxieties. The active ingredients in this product differ from other natural sleep aids and include avena sativa, calcarea phosphorica, chamomilla, ferrum phosphoricum, humulus lupulus, kali phosphoricum, magnesia phosphorica, natrum phosphoricum, and passiflora. Each of these ingredients is meant to address either sleeplessness or stress and irritability. Calms Forté comes in bottles of 100 tablets, and there are bulk purchase discounts available.

Pros:

  • Meets standards of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States
  • Highly effective
  • Non-habit forming
  • Becomes effective within 30 minutes

Cons:

  • May cause odd dreams
  • May not work for everyone

Zhou Nutrition Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid

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Zhou Nutrition helps insomniacs by relieving their anxieties and allowing them to, as the name suggests, drift off to sleep. This sleep aid is vegetarian and free from any chemical ingredients. The active ingredients are melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, GABA, passionflower, lemon balm, and hops. Additionally, this product contains l-tryptophan, which is an amino acid found in plant and animal proteins that supports the functions of melatonin. Lastly, Zhou Nutrition offers discounts when you purchase two or more of their products together.

Pros:

  • Won’t leave you feeling groggy or “hungover”
  • Safe for all ages
  • Relieves anxiety

Cons:

  • May not overcome particularly stubborn sleeplessness

Genius Sleep Aid

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The Genius Sleep Aid is more than just a vegan, OTC sleep aid. It has several other benefits including decreasing anxiety levels, balancing moods, detoxing your body of caffeine, and restoring adrenal function. The active ingredients are melatonin, l-theanine, glycine (an amino acid), inositol (a form of sugar), and finally rutaecarpine, which helps to rid your body of caffeine. Pacific Coast Naturals, the company behind the Genius Sleep Aid, offers discounts when you purchase two or more of their products together.

Pros:

  • Won’t leave you feeling groggy or “hungover”
  • Energetic feeling in the morning
  • Relieves anxiety
  • Highly effective

Cons:

  • May not work for everyone

What Else Should You Consider When Purchasing and Using Over-The-Counter Sleep Aids?

When trying to find a solution for insomnia, it can be easy to forget about the big picture. Although sleeplessness is a health concern, it is critical that you try to address the issue while keeping your overall health in mind. If you find a drug or supplement that helps you sleep, but has other negative effects on your body, then nothing has been accomplished. Because of this, you must be aware of the potential side effects or interactions that over-the-counter sleep aids can have.

First, consider side effects. Typically, the OTC sleep aids that produce the most side effects are those that contain drugs like diphenhydramine HCI and doxylamine succinate. Some users may not notice any side effects, and for others, the side effects could be mild, but in certain cases, the side effects could be very damaging. Until you know how a sleep aid will affect you in particular, proceed with caution. Oppositely, natural OTC sleep aids aren’t known to produce side effects. The only real exception to this is with natural sleep aids that contain valerian or valerian root, which could produce mild “hangover” symptoms like headache, upset stomach, confusion, dry mouth, and feelings of anxiety.

Second, consider drug or supplement interactions. When adding something new to your diet or routine, there is always a chance that it could interact with other drugs or supplements you are already taking as well as the way your body is already functioning. In some cases, adding a sleep aid to your body’s current conditions could create a new health concern or worsen an existing health concern. Because of this, it is recommended that you become informed about the OTC sleep aid you plan to try by speaking with a pharmacist or researching online.

Over-The-Counter Sleep Aids – Final Thoughts

There is no question that sleep is an important factor in our overall health and wellbeing. For those times when a healthy lifestyle and good sleep habits aren’t enough to curtail your sleeplessness, there are many OTC sleep aids that can help. Since over-the-counter sleep aids are a temporary solution to occasional sleeplessness, be sure to consult a doctor if your sleeplessness worsens or continues. Not all OTC sleep aids are the same and they can affect everyone differently, so proceed with caution and be aware of how introducing a new drug or supplement could fit into your individual situation.

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