Who doesn’t want a restful sleep? But having a restful sleep is unlikely to happen when you encounter some sleep disturbances. Having insomnia is one of the most frustrating sleeping disorders one can experience. Insomnia is caused by many different factors, such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, pain, fatigue, tension, psychiatric issues, discomfort at night, etc. Nobody is exempted from this type of sleeping disorder as it doesn’t discriminate against age or gender; anybody can become a victim of it at any time in life.

When that happens, one option is to try using over-the-counter sleep aids to help you get to sleep. These OTC sleep aids are regularly available at pharmacies and even convenience stores. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. There are many things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing which sleeping aids will work for you. While they generally do work well and help you get to sleep within a short period of time, they also have their problems.

Issues With OTC Sleeping Pills

otc sleep medicine

Prolonged Drowsiness

The biggest issue most people have with sleeping pills is that they can lead to prolonged drowsiness. When you wake the next day, you may feel extremely groggy and struggle to roll yourself out of bed. You may have a hard time functioning that day or end up taking a nap and messing with your sleep schedule even more. There’s no known way to avoid this side effect. Some people try to simply overpower it with caffeine from a morning cup of coffee. While that’s not going to cause any serious harm in the short-term, it does send confusing signals to your body. If you have to use OTC sleep aids a lot, it could cause problems.

Only Meant for Short-Term Use

Over-the-counter sleeping pills are only meant to be used for two or three nights in a row, maximum. If you have trouble sleeping past that period of time, then you should consult a doctor. It can be tempting to just keep using the sleep aids, but that’s a mistake for many reasons. Not only do you risk developing a dependency on sleep aids if you continue, but you also may be ignoring the symptoms of a more severe illness. So, if you need to sleep for a night or two, don’t hesitate to use sleep aids, but beyond that, be careful.

Key Differences Between OTC and Prescription Sleeping Pills

OTC sleep aids or prescription sleeping pills are two options among those who are suffering from insomnia. You need to understand that not all prescription or OTC pills work the same for everyone. Our bodies react differently to many different drugs. Even 100% natural herbs may or may not be effective for everyone. Medicines prescribed to you are likely to be costly, and it gets even more expensive if you don’t have health insurance. Prescription medicine also does not guarantee you a great night’s sleep. If the medications work, they can make you tired the whole day. This affects your work productivity and might put you at risk of an automobile accident. Some people still consider it to be sometimes the best cure for insomnia as they don’t have a strong dosage compared to prescription medicines. Prescribed sleeping aids are much more powerful than OTC sleeping pills, but they are too strong for you to function well during the day. Also, prescribed sleeping pills cost more than the average medicine.

The Rundown on Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills are considered to be the last resort to combat insomnia for so many. This type of pills can be purchased over-the-counter or can also be prescribed by a doctor. For safety, it is best to take the physician route, as he/she will be able to find the cause of your insomnia and prescribe you the right sleeping pills. It is better to prevent than lament. Doctors usually prescribe sleeping pills for a short period of time, as long-term use of it can cause serious issues down the road and put your life at risk.

Believe it or not, a great percentage of individuals who have insomnia don’t opt to visit a specialized doctor to help them solve this ongoing matter. Numerous people living with insomnia prefer to either purchase medication at their nearest drugstore or deal with poor sleep every day.

But, this is not the way to go if you are trying to save time and money and really help your body. Drugstores don’t carry a grand selection of sleeping pills; the ones that are available will never be as effective as the ones prescribed by a doctor, as only a certified physician will be able to get to the root of the problem and relieve you from insomnia once and for all. Between a third and half of the population in the United States complain of poor sleep; therefore, most Americans often opt to intake sleeping pills before going to bed, and a lot of them have had great results when they’ve used it as directed. But, just like with any other pill, there are side effects that can occur at any time in your body from using it.

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills tend to make you breathe less deeply and more slowly, which can be dangerous for people who have uncontrolled lung problems such as COPD or asthma. The most common side effects of prescription sleeping pills are:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Burning or tingling in the hands
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Heartburn
  • Unusual dreams
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Weakness
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body

So, if you experience any of these symptoms when taking a sleeping pill, you must immediately stop taking it and discuss it with your doctor.

Various Types of Sedative-Hypnotics

So far, the sleeping pills in the market are sedative-hypnotics, a specific type of drugs to maintain and induce sleep. Sedative-hypnotics include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and various hypnotics.

Barbiturate is a drug that is prescribed either as a sleeping pill or sedative, which can cause sedation by depressing the central nervous system, while benzodiazepines can increase drowsiness to help individuals fall asleep faster. While these drugs are useful short-term, all benzodiazepines can become potentially addictive.

If you are suffering from short-term insomnia, your physician might suggest you to take sleeping pills for just a couple of weeks. The body is capable of building a tolerance to any medication that you take. Therefore, after regular use of sleeping pills, they can stop working for you.

Also, anybody taking any kind of sleep medicine might become psychologically dependent on it, as you will have the idea that without them, you won’t be able to fall asleep on your own, which will make you feel anxious. This could be a sign of an emotional or physical dependence.

Various studies have shown that long-term use of sleeping tablets can actually interfere with sleep. Sleeping pills can be of great help only when prescribed by a doctor and used as directed.

So, if your insomnia has gotten the best of you, consider this helpful information, and you will get your life back on track, as you will be able to sleep throughout the night and wake up feeling energized and ready to go outside and conquer the world.

The Best Natural Sleep Aids

Natural sleep aids are probably the most effective way to get a great night sleep. The only way to know what works for you is to try different herbal sleep tablets. Your health can also affect the responsiveness of what you take into your body. A person with multiple health issues may not have the same results as someone who is in great health. If you have numerous health issues, you may need to address your other health issues to get the most benefits from any sleeping aid.

Even if you have multiple health issues, you can still try all natural sleep aids as they are always safe to use. If you have various ailments, natural sleep methods may be the only safe way to go. These include:

A Good Multivitamin Every Day

Make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition every day. Most people are simply not eating the right amounts of fruits (3 to 4 servings) and vegetables (4 to 5 servings) every day to supply their body with the nutrients it needs. A good multivitamin is recommended daily as nutrient shortages can affect your sleep and leave you with a feeling of fatigue. For example, B vitamins are essential for energy production in cells, and vitamin B6 works with the sleep aid 5-htp to help create serotonin.

Calcium And Magnesium

Adequate calcium and magnesium in your daily diet are also essential nutrients for helping you relax and get a good night’s sleep. But according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, millions of Americans are not getting adequate amounts. Magnesium, in particular, may help with fatigue and stress reduction. Multivitamins rarely contain much calcium or magnesium, so you may need to supplement if your diet is lacking in these two essential nutrients. You should also make sure you are getting at least 400 lU of vitamin D3 every day (1,000 lU supplements are even better, especially during the dark winter months). Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption. The best natural ones will typically have a combination of nutrients. The reason is that it often takes a properly formulated blend to tackle chronic insomnia.

Melatonin (One Of The Most Studied Natural Sleep Aids)

Melatonin supplements can be very effective for some people, especially those who are experiencing jet lag. Melatonin is a natural hormone in the body that controls the night and day or sleep and wake cycles within the body. Clinical trials have found that darkness causes the body to create more melatonin, which results in the body feeling prepared for falling asleep. Melatonin supplements for sleep work by adding more melatonin to the body so that your body and brain feel ready to sleep. This can especially help people who are suffering from jet lag, because jet lag can affect regular sleeping patterns and prevent people from going to sleep at a normal hour. Melatonin can be taken by itself as a natural sleep aid. You’ll also often see it as a blend in melatonin supplements, which may be the most effective way to use it. As a natural remedy for insomnia, melatonin is definitely worth trying.


5-HTP, also known as S hydroxytryptophan, is a substance that is produced naturally by the body by an amino acid called tryptophan. In the supplement versions of 5-htp, the 5-htp part usually comes from a Griffonia simplicifolia seed. One of the most important sleep regulators is the bodies natural neurotransmitter, serotonin. One of the advantages of 5-htp is that it easily crosses from the blood into the brain. That’s why 5-htp taken by itself may be useful for reaching a natural calm mood and also help with depression. As a natural sleep aid, it’s probably best to use 5-htp as part of a supplement blend.


This brain neurotransmitter is included in some natural sleep aids because it has a calming effect and relieves the anxiety that can keep a person awake at night. GABA does promote drowsiness and may help some people fall asleep faster.

L-Glutamine, Also Known As Glutamine

This is the most abundant amino acid in your body. It has a wide range of uses, including for insomnia, anxiety, and improving moods.


This is also an amino acid and it’s naturally found in green tea. Studies have shown that green tea contains about 1 to 3% of theanine. It has a relaxing and anti-anxiety effect on the mind. Stress causes a lot of sleepless nights. Green tea itself is not a natural remedy for insomnia because this tea contains caffeine. You can, however, purchase green tea that is decaffeinated.

Herbal Sleep Remedies

The best natural sleep aid will have some combination of sleep herbs in them. Typically, these herbs for sleep will be valerian, hops, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender. However, not all of these herbs need to be present for the all-natural sleep aid to be effective.


Chamomile teas have a calming effect that can help you to relax and can encourage sleepiness. This allows you to drift of to sleep much more quickly and easily and therefore chamomile is known to help with insomnia. Chamomile also comes in the form of sprays if you prefer not to ingest it in tea.


Valerian is one of the most popular herbal remedies for helping with insomnia. This herb is particularly effective in promoting relaxation, and valerian is especially good for reducing anxiety. This can make a person feel much more relaxed and therefore makes falling asleep easier.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is also one of the most popular herbal options for helping with sleep problems.  Lemon balm can improve people’s ability to sleep, as well as the ability to stay asleep. It also helps to improve the quality of sleep.

Passion Flower

Passion flower is great for improving overall sleep quality. If you find that you’re constantly waking up in the night or you struggle to stay asleep, passion flower may be the best remedy for you.

A Combination of Herbs

A combination of passion flower, lemon balm, and valerian is a common formula for inducing sleep and preventing insomnia. This natural remedy is great for helping you to relax and fall asleep faster, as well as helping you to stay asleep and improving the quality of your sleep. These natural remedies are also great for helping you to avoid feeling that morning grogginess.

What Are The Best Over The Counter Sleep Aids?

The ideal OTC sleep aid is usually a warm blanket, a snug cushion, plus a stress-free imagination. You are looking for drugs, or perhaps a supplement, or something you could take to help you get to fall asleep. Some of the most popular OTC sleeping pills include:


This is considered to be the best over-the-counter sleep aid, based on cost. Diphenhydramine is an active component found in non-prescription brand names like

Sominex, Diphenhist, Diphenylin, Dylan, Hydramine, and a lot more. The negative side effects are dry mouth, nose, and throat, queasiness, throwing up, and also a headache. The majority of allergy pills and over half of just about all sleeping tablets utilize this ingredient.


This is considered to be the best over-the-counter sleep aid based upon sensitivity. Melatonin has lately gained popularity as being a natural and organic over-the-counter sleep medicine, especially for people who are suffering from jet lag. Melatonin is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland in the brain. The mistake people today make is assuming that because the body creates the hormone, it is then risk-free to take more of. The body produces 5 to 25 micrograms of melatonin each night. Capsules of melatonin usually have 2 milligrams, which happens to be eighty times more than what the body creates. Side effects are headaches, queasiness, and at higher dosage amounts, looseness of the bowels and tummy cramping. That being said, the FDA does view melatonin as safe.

Under no circumstances should you take any sleeping pills together with alcoholic drinks. Even the very best over-the-counter sleep aid could be fatal if the directions aren’t followed. Also, keep your expectations sensible. Over the counter, sleeping pills are not tranquilizers and will not ‘knock you unconscious’. Sleeping pills also hinder REM sleep (your ability to dream). Having your dreams interrupted or suppressed isn’t healthy.

Chronic Insomnia

What Is Chronic Insomnia?

Clinical trials have found that there are many different types of chronic insomnia, and the symptoms can affect your ability to go on with your daily tasks. Many people who suffer from insomnia will eventually turn to sleep medicine to make falling asleep and the ability to stay asleep easier.

Some of the main symptoms of chronic insomnia include:

  • Trouble with falling asleep at bedtime
  • Frequently waking up during the night
  • Issues with staying asleep for the full duration of the night
  • Waking up earlier than needed
  • Daytime grogginess
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Feeling unrested after a full night of sleep
  • Feeling irritated
  • Changes in mood, such as feeling anxious or depressed
  • Trouble with concentrating on things
  • Forgetfulness or issues with memory
  • An increase in making mistakes
  • Morning grogginess

Chronic insomnia is a severe form of insomnia which affects a person in an extremely negative way. Most people who suffer from chronic insomnia will eventually consult a doctor due to the effects that the lack of sleep has on their life. There are many different treatments for chronic insomnia.

What Type of Sleep Aids Are Recommended For Chronic Insomnia?

There are a wide number of both prescription, OTC drugs, and sleep medicines that are highly recommended as treatment for people who live with chronic insomnia. Doctors will usually only recommend you to take sleeping pills or any form of sedative short term, as they can have a number of side effects. These side effects can include sleepwalking, trouble balancing, daytime sleepiness, forgetfulness, and falling. Some types of sleeping pills and sedatives can also turn out to be addictive if taken for longer periods of time.

Some of the best and most highly recommended prescription sleeping aids for treating insomnia include:

  • Zolpidem (Ambien)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Doxepin (Silenor)
  • Ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Suvorexant (Belsomra)

Zolpidem (Ambien) and Eszopiclone (Lunesta) are two of the most commonly prescribed prescription sleep medicine for the treatment of insomnia.

Some of the best and most highly recommended OTC drugs and sleeping aids for treating insomnia include:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Doxylamine Succinate (Unisom Sleeptabs)
  • Melatonin
  • Valerian root
  • Chamomile tea
  • Lemon balm
  • Herbal remedies

It is important to always speak to a doctor before choosing to take any medications used for sleep, supplements to stay asleep, or herbal remedies that encourage sleepiness as there can be side effects that may be avoided if you choose the right treatment for you. Medical advice is always highly recommended.

How Sleeping Aids Function In The Body

So we’ve learned that sleeping pills and sedative drugs for sleep are effective in the process of treating insomnia, but how exactly do they work?

The main function of sleep drugs is to work on promoting drowsiness in the brain. Most prescription sleep drugs tend to affect to function of the nervous system. This results in a person becoming drowsy or feeling relaxed, which then leads to sleep.

Some sleep drugs work faster than others when treating insomnia, and these tend to be the ones with the worst side effects. These side effects can include behavioral changes before sleep, a decrease in overall sleep quality, and in some extreme cases can even cause a person to hallucinate.

Treating Insomnia Without Medication

Using sleep drugs should never be a permanent solution to insomnia. Due to this, some people may prefer to choose more natural herbal remedies for curing problems with sleep. There are many ways things that can help you to sleep better without using sleeping aids.

Nail Down a Regular Sleeping Schedule

A great tip for helping you to get better sleep is to stick to a regular sleeping schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, seven days a week. Having a lie-in on a weekend may seem like a good idea for catching up on your sleep, however, this only leads to more problems. A regular sleeping pattern is the best thing that you can do to make it easier for you to fall asleep and can help to get rid of grogginess during the day.

Get Consistent Exercise

Exercise is a great way of helping you to fall asleep much easier. This exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous. Even relaxing exercises such as yoga can help you get to sleep better. Relaxation exercises before bed can also be very beneficial. Some light meditation, breathing exercises, or even just taking a nice warm bath before bed can make you feel much more relaxed and can make your body feel ready for sleep.

Create the Perfect Sleeping Environment

Be sure to create a relaxing sleeping environment. Your bed should be comfortable and the room should not be too hot or too cold. It is also important to make sure the room is not too bright as this can affect your ability to get to sleep easily. It may be necessary to think about wearing an eye mask or using ear plugs as these can both prevent unwanted distractions from becoming a problem when you’re trying to get to sleep.

Drink Less Alcohol

Reducing your alcohol intake will help with preventing insomnia. Although drinking alcohol before bed can make you feel sleepier, it usually leads to a much more restless night and prevents you from getting the quality of sleep that you need. This can result in morning grogginess.

Put the Phone Away Before Bedtime

Try to avoid getting on your phone while you are in bed as this will keep your brain alert and will prevent you from being able to relax enough to fall asleep. Keeping your phone, laptop, or other devices away from your bed creates a separate space for relaxation time, and allows you to drift off naturally and much more easily.

Skip the Afternoon Caffeine

Try to avoid caffeine later in the day. Noon is a good cut off for caffeine as this allows your body to become reduced in energy by the time you’re due to go to bed, making it much easier to fall asleep. Caffeine later on will only make your body feel much more awake and this means that you will struggle to fall asleep.

Pass On the Daytime Naps

Avoid the urge to nap during the day. It may sometimes be difficult to stay awake during the day, especially if you begin to avoid caffeine intake. However, it is important to avoid the temptation to sleep during the day as this will prevent you from feeling tired when it comes to your bedtime and can result in an unregulated sleeping pattern.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you struggle to get to sleep naturally and feel like you need treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy may just be the solution that you need. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of counseling that will help you get to the root of your sleeping problems, and a therapist will help to guide you through some processes that will help you to get better sleep. Sometimes, getting an outsider’s perspective is the best thing that you can do to help you come up with a solution that works for helping you to sleep.

Insomnia In Older Adults

It is a myth that as we get older we need less sleep. Adults of any age need somewhere between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, clinical trials have shown that older adults often find it harder to get to sleep or stay asleep during the night. Some clinical trials in older adults have shown that they can experience a shift in their circadian rhythm. A shift in circadian rhythm causes them to become sleepy early in the evening and wake up far too early.

Health issues in older adults can also lead to insomnia. A common issue that affects older adults is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes pauses in breath or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. This condition can affect the overall quality of sleep.

Insomnia is treatable for everyone, however, including in older adults. Natural sleeping aids and herbal remedies are a common option for helping older people to avoid insomnia becoming a problem.

Final Thoughts on the Best Over the Counter Sleeping Aids

A good night’s sleep is one of the most important things for humans as it gives both our bodies and our minds a rest, and allows time for recovery. If you find that you continuously struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, it is essential that you see your doctor. Your doctor will be able to advise the best route for you to go down in terms of treating your insomnia. As all cases are different, a doctor’s advice is always recommended, especially before taking any form of sleeping pills. However, we hope that this article has shed some light on some of the best options out there for treating insomnia.