Best Sleep Aids

It’s fairly common for individuals to experience sleeplessness for a number of reasons.

Typically, stress at work or home and disorders like snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome are credited with causing sleep deprivation.

All of these circumstances can lead to sleepless nights permanently or temporarily.

The single best way to eradicate most issues with sleep deprivation is to simply be healthier— eat right, exercise, and live clean, but for some, it takes more than that.

Quick Look at Our Top 7 Picks

Individuals who experience sleep deprivation understand that losing sleep is a serious issue.

Everyone wants to fall asleep easily and maintain a restful sleep all night long because of the overwhelmingly positive effects sleep has on our bodies.

Sleep improves our overall health and can affect our hormones, mood, and weight, so it is easy to see why there are so many sleep aids on the market.

In the case of long-term, serious sleep deprivation, it is recommended that you consult a doctor. But for those who experience more occasional interruption in sleep, there are a plethora of solutions to consider.

Sleep & Your Health

Sleep is incredibly important to a person’s health and wellbeing. Our society has begun to live on less sleep, but the effects of this are detrimental.

When someone is operating on a lack of sleep, they are impaired in several ways including their decision making, reactions, and other functions. Plus, a lack of sleep can cause memory issues, depression, and a weakening of the immune system.

According to WebMD, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but that can vary based on the individual. Some adults may only need 6 hours of sleep per night, while others may need closer to 10.

Children and pregnant women often require much more sleep than average adults. In general, you know you are getting enough sleep if you don’t feel drowsy during the day.

Another factor that will impact how much sleep you need is how much sleep you’ve been getting.

For example, if you have been losing a lot of sleep recently, you will need to sleep more to make up for it.

Unfortunately, many people live sleep-deprived lives and although some may say that they have become accustomed to getting less sleep, this is not the case—our bodies do not adapt to a lack of sleep.

Good Sleep Habits

Good sleep habits are mostly centered around your schedule, your environment, and your body. What you do before bed can have a major impact on your sleep.

Being active, eating, or working before bed can cause you to lose sleep, but taking a shower or bath, reading or writing in a journal, drinking herbal tea, meditating, maintaining a regular bed time, and eating healthy meals and snacks can improve sleep.

Additionally, it is recommended that your bedroom is a calm, dark, cool, silent place. Anything that makes noise, has lights, or moves can interrupt your sleep, so it is best to minimize the presence of those in your bedroom.

Unnatural Sleep Aids

If you find yourself unable to naturally get the proper amount and quality of sleep that your body needs, you may consider using a sleep aid.

The goal of any sleep aid is to help your body achieve restful sleep. Aside from prescription medication, there are many sleep aids openly available including both natural and unnatural options.

Generally, the natural sleep remedies include herbal supplements and therapies, while unnatural solutions include medications, products, or technology.

The best sleep aid for you is whichever one, or combination, fits your specific needs.

Also Read: Best Sleeping Pills

Many unnatural sleep aids come in the form of over-the-counter pills.

These medications share a few commonly used active ingredients: diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate. Diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate are similar in that they are both antihistamines with sedative qualities and they share side effects including dry mouth, blurred vision, drowsiness during the day, constipation, and general unwell feeling.

These side effects are colloquially known as “hangover effects”. Unnatural sleep aids also pose a higher risk for becoming dependent on the drug or developing a tolerance for it, which is why they are only recommended for use on a temporary or occasional basis.

Unnatural sleep aids can also come in the form of sleep technology.

There are many products that have been designed to create optimal sleep conditions to aid those who experience difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Sleep trackers of all varieties are one example of this.

Smart watches and gadgets like the Fitbit are capable of tracking sleep cycles and can help you keep a regular sleep schedule.

Other products include specialized lightbulbs, apparel, pillows, mattresses, and aroma and sound machines to create an ideal environment conducive to sleep.

Natural Sleep Aids

As mentioned earlier, natural sleep aids are typically herbal supplements made from naturally occurring ingredients that create feelings of relaxation and drowsiness.

Some of the most common and safest ingredients in natural sleep aids are melatonin, valerian, chamomile, passionflower, hops, magnesium, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).

The majority of natural sleep aids have been used to treat difficulty sleeping for many years, although most of the common ingredients have not shown overwhelming medical evidence to prove that they are effective in treating the inability to sleep.

The natural ingredients melatonin, magnesium, and 5-HTP are closely related; 5-HTP comes from amino acids and is a precursor to melatonin, which is a hormone that governs our sleep cycle, and magnesium helps regulate our body’s production of melatonin.

Valerian is an herbal extract that comes from the valerian plant, and is known for treating anxiety, depression, and insomnia, although there is little medical evidence to support that.

Valerian is also reported to have a “hangover” effect, especially when used for more than a month.

Chamomile is one of the most reliable natural sleep aids, and it is usually consumed in the form of tea. It is an herb that has a calming effect, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities.

Passionfruit and hops are often grouped together, and both are herbs that may have a calming effect.

In the past, two other ingredients, kava and tryptophan, were considered to be natural sleep aids on their own, but have since been disproven to help with insomnia, and they may not be safe if consumed in large quantities.

Tryptophan is still sometimes used as a minor ingredient among other natural ingredients in a supplement.

However, there are some other natural remedies that are less consumable and more like procedures or techniques for getting better sleep.

Examples are essential oils and specialized therapy. Aromatherapy with essential oils can have a sleep-inducing effect,  and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) involves working with a therapist to improve sleep and sleep habits.

While it is widely believed that natural sleep aids are safer and healthier, there are some risks.

Supplements are not regulated as strictly by the FDA as over-the-counter sleeping pills, so they could be made improperly, contain the incorrect dosage, or have the wrong ingredients.

This, of course, could lead to many negative health issues ranging from mild to severe. Natural sleep aids still require you to take the proper precautions and learn all you can about them and how they may affect you.

What Are the Top Seven Sleep Aids?

Here is a summary of the top seven sleep aids, first unnatural then natural, and each offers a unique combination of desirable features and options. Each product is highly rated, and sleep tested.

Kirkland Signature Sleep Aid

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The Kirkland Signature Sleep Aid is one example of a common, over-the-counter sleep aid drug. The active ingredient in this drug is doxylamine succinate, which is an antihistamine, and the other ingredients in this 25 mg tablet include dicalcium phosphate, blue coloring, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, and sodium starch glycolate. This product is known for helping even the most restless people fall and stay asleep, but as with all sleep aids, the effects vary based on the individual, and it is not intended as a permanent solution to difficulty sleeping.


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


  • 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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Because of the Vicks brand reputation, this sleep aid is often assumed to treat colds or pain, but that is not the case. This drug is intended only to help users fall asleep quickly, stay asleep all night, and wake up rested and refreshed. The active ingredient in ZzzQuil is diphenhydramine HCI, which is an antihistamine, and it is non-habit forming. Other ingredients in this product include red and blue coloring, gelatin, glycerin, polyethelene glycol, purified water, and sorbitol sorbitan solution. ZzzQuil is available in 3 liquid flavors or in LiquiCaps, and it is intended to treat occasional sleeplessness.


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


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

Unisom SleepTabs/Gels

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Unisom SleepTabs utilize the active ingredient doxylamine succinate, which is an antihistamine. The other ingredients in this drug are dibasic calcium phosphate, blue coloring, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, and sodium starch glycolate. This sleep aid will allow you to forget about the anxieties and stresses of the day and help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Unisom states that their sleep aid will help you fall asleep 33% faster and recommends taking the medication 30 minutes before bed. Like the Kirkland Sleep Aid above, it is a non-habit-forming drug, but should be used on a temporary basis.


  • Body will not become tolerant to the drug


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

Advil PM

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Advil PM does double duty by relieving any aches and pains while lulling you to sleep. As a result, this sleep aid has two active ingredients: ibuprofen (200mg) and diphenhydramine citrate (38mg). It also has a longer list of inactive ingredients including calcium stearate, carnauba wax, colloidal silicon dioxide, corn starch, croscarmellose sodium, blue coloring, glyceryl behenate, hypromellose, lactose monohydrate, microcrystalline cellulose, polydextrose, polyethylene glycol, pregelatinized starch, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium starch glycolate, stearic acid, and titanium dioxide. Advil PM comes in coated caplet form and is non-habit forming. This drug is intended to help you fall and stay asleep by not letting aches and pains get in the way.


  • Relieves both chronic and temporary pain
  • Won’t leave you feeling groggy


  • May cause you to have restless legs
  • Safe for adults only

Nested Naturals Luna Natural Sleep Aid

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Luna is a vegan, herbal sleep aid made with natural ingredients. It is non-habit forming and has minimal side effects because it contains no harsh chemicals. Ingredients include magnesium for relaxation, melatonin to help you stay asleep, soothing amino acids GABA and l-theanine, and calming herbs valerian root, lemon balm, passionflower, and hops. Luna is designed to help you drift off to sleep quickly, stay asleep all night, and wake up rested. Nested Naturals allows you to purchase their product risk free by offering a 100% money back guarantee.


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


  • May not overcome particularly stubborn sleeplessness
  • Effect may be different each time you take it

Zhou Nutrition Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid

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This vegetarian sleep aid is intended to help you sleep, while easing your anxiety and restlessness, without all of the chemical ingredients of over-the-counter sleep aids. The Driftoff sleep aid is made with melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, l-tryptophan, GABA, passionflower, lemon balm, and hops, all of which are naturally occurring in our bodies or the outdoors. It will help you fall asleep fast and wake up energized the next day, but as with all sleep aids, it should be used responsibly. Zhou Nutrition also offers discounts when you purchase two or more of their products together.


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


  • May not overcome particularly stubborn sleeplessness

Genius Sleep Aid

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The Genius Sleep Aid helps you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up energized, but it also has several other benefits. It helps to reduce anxiety and control moods, plus it addresses chronic fatigue by restoring adrenal function, and helps your body rid itself of caffeine with an ingredient called rutaecarpine. This vegan sleep aid is a combination of natural herbs and amino acids, including melatonin, l-theanine, glycine, and inositol, that resist tolerance and dependency. Pacific Coast Naturals, the manufacturer of the Genius Sleep Aid, offers discounts when you purchase two or more of their products together.


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


  • May not work for everyone

Fitness Trackers

An emerging and popular trend in both health and technology deals with fitness tracking, and fortunately, that also includes sleep tracking. Fitness tracking devices have flooded the market, but many smart watches and non-wearable sleep trackers will also perform several of the same functions. Oftentimes, these gadgets use your heart rate to show you your sleep patterns and the stages of sleep you go through during the night. Tracking your sleep in this way can help you improve your sleep habits and routines, and it can also help you identify when your sleep is being interrupted, so you can figure out why it’s being interrupted. There are many devices that provide sleep tracking, but the general rule is to find one that can identify when you are sleeping rather than just sitting still. If your tracker can do this, usually the other data it provides is reliable as well.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

The first natural sleep aid on this list is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which a non-drug approach to addressing sleeplessness. CBT has been proven to be effective in treating chronic sleeplessness or insomnia. Typically, CBT begins with a sleep assessment, then consistent work with a therapist over the course of several sessions. The therapy portion of this process can be individualized to address the reason for your loss of sleep. The goal of CBT is to change your beliefs and attitude about sleep, as well as form good sleep habits and routines, which decreases how long it takes you to fall asleep and increases how long you stay asleep. To put it simply, it is retraining your brain to sleep, and it can be done for people experiencing both chronic and intermittent sleeplessness.

Aromatherapy with Essential Oils

Another natural, non-drug sleep aid is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is more powerful than commonly believed, and because of this, it can work as an effective sleep aid. Our olfactory nerve picks up smells and sends those signals directly to our brain, which decides what to do with those signals. Some smells can cause our bodies to react with lots of energy, whereas other smells can cause us to relax. Certain essential oils extracted from plants have been shown to relieve stress and relax the body, lulling it to sleep. One of the most common essential oils that accomplishes this is lavender, but others include lemon or yuzu, bergamot, ylang ylang, sage, jasmine, valerian root, and chamomile. It is recommended to try one, or a combination of several, essential oils to see which has the best effect on you personally.

What Else Should You Consider When Purchasing And Using Sleep Aids?

Whenever you are trying something new regarding your health, it is best to proceed with caution.

Medications, especially, have a poor reputation for having side effects or risk of addiction. As with any medication, those meant to help with sleeping should also be used responsibly.

The best way to do this is to be informed, so be sure to do some additional research on the sleep aid you decide to try.

Make yourself aware of any side effects and read about the experiences others have had while using the product. Lastly, only use the sleep aid in the manner that it was intended to be used in and follow all usage instructions.

It is equally important that you are sure that the aid you choose fits your health conditions specifically.

Whether you are suffering from a sleep disorder or any other medical condition, it is vital to know how adding a sleep aid will affect you.

For example, individual sleep disorders may have specific remedies that pair best with that disorder but may not pair best with other medications you are taking or any allergies you may have.

The same may be true if you are suffering from a condition or disorder unrelated to sleep.

It is always best to be sure that the new medication, supplement, or change in routine will not negatively interact with your health in any other way. And as a general rule, don’t combine alcohol with sleep medication.

Finally, consider if the sleep interruption you are experiencing is a long-term or short-term issue.

In general, over-the-counter sleeping pills are only safe for temporary use, usually no more than two weeks. This is why it is best to pinpoint what is causing your sleep issue and make lifestyle changes to correct it.

Sleep Aids – Final Thoughts

Hopefully it is now clear that there are many options for people who are losing sleep.

Whether your sleep interruption stems from a disorder or stress, there are both natural and unnatural remedies that could be your solution.

Keep in mind that not all sleep aids will work for all people and situations, and you may need to try a number of approaches, or combination of approaches, to find what works best for you.


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About Marissa Gvozdenovich Marissa is an English teacher and writer. She enjoys the Florida beach life with her husband and puppy.

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