The National Sleep Foundation suggests that most adults need up to nine hours of sleep per day to feel completely rested and be able to perform at their highest levels. However, getting to sleep and staying asleep can be challenging.
If you struggle with insomnia or constantly wrestle with a restless mind at bedtime, you may want to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills. Before making any purchase, though, you should understand what’s available without a prescription, as well as how popular OTC sleep aids may affect the human body.
Related Article: Best Sleep Aids
Pros and Cons of Sleeping Pills
The most important advantage to using OTC sleeping aids is they allow you to stop tossing and turning on your mattress. Another benefit is that they aren’t as strong as many prescribed sleep medicines. You don’t even need to talk to your doctor in order to purchase them from a retail store, pharmacy, or online marketplace, although you may want to if you’re taking other medicines and are worried about possible contraindications.
One of the biggest concerns with any type of sleeping pill is the increased risk of addiction. Over time, some people become dependent upon sleep aids, including those purchased over-the-counter. As people’s reliance on the sleep aids increases, they may become unable to sleep at all without increasing their dosage of the main ingredients. For this reason, users of sleeping pills should turn to them as an occasional, short-term solution. Long-term bouts of chronic insomnia or disrupted sleep are best dealt with under a physician’s care.
The four most-used varieties of OTC sleep solutions are antihistamines, herbal remedies, melatonin, and combination sleep aids.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines are used to address allergy issues by blocking histamines. At the same time, one of their side effects is drowsiness, making them a popular OTC method to get to sleep.
- Herbal Remedies: Looking for a more natural way to get your zzzs? Herbal remedies offer a gentler way to drift off than other types of OTC medications. Made from the extracts of plants that have been shown to help regulate sleep and provide relaxation.
- Melatonin: Like herbs, melatonin is another naturally occurring substance. Melatonin is a hormone that helps the body get into a more balanced wake-sleep cycle and in some cases can be used for up to two years without major problems. Because it affects your circadian rhythm, melatonin must be used carefully.
- Combination Sleep Aids: As the name suggests, combination sleep aids are created from a mixture of ingredients such as herbal remedies and melatonin. The goal of a combination OTC sleeping pill is to counteract sleepless nights by harnessing the most positive effects of melatonin and plant extracts.
Best Antihistamine: Unisom Sleep Tabs
Unisom is the brand name for the generic medication doxylamine succinate. It’s a smart choice for people who want to get sleep without feeling groggy in the morning, which makes it one of the most favorable of the antihistamine varieties. However, Unisom should only be used in cases where you expect to rest for no less than six hours, such as when you have jet lag and need to get back into a natural sleep cycle. Unisom’s active ingredients work by shutting out histamines, enabling you to fall asleep within as little as 30 minutes.
Unisom’s major side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Unwanted daytime drowsiness
- Blurry vision
Buy on Amazon: Unisom tabs
Best Herbal Remedy: Kalms
Kalms offers a sleeping aid created from extracts from the valerian root. Valerian not only helps reduce anxiety, but promotes sedation. Best of all, Kalms does it more gently than many other medications. As an added benefit, you don’t have to start with the four suggested tablets one hour before going to bed. Taking one or two to see how you respond makes sense, especially for people whose systems are sensitive to medicines. Having that kind of option puts control into your hands, making Kalms a top choice if you’re considering a valerian root derivative for sleep.
Users of both Kalms and generic valerian root have noted that it sometimes causes:
- Vivid dreams
- Dry mouth
- Mental dullness
- Jumpiness or nervousness
Buy on Amazon: Kalms Night
Best Melatonin: Zarbee’s Naturals
Zarbee’s Naturals gummies are perfect for adults who can’t sleep. It’s especially ideal for those who want to try melatonin, but hate swallowing pills. Additionally, Zarbee’s has taken care to ensure that the product contains nothing artificial or habit-forming. The trust the Zarbee’s company has built with consumers makes it a winner. All that you get is a calming effect that comes from natural sources. The active ingredient, melatonin, gently pushes the body into a more natural circadian rhythm when used as suggested. Just don’t eat these gummies to promote daytime naps. Doing that could throw off your sleep rhythm.
Most melatonin has mild side effects:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Intestinal problems
- Low-grade anxiety
Buy on Amazon: Zarbee’s Naturals
Best Combination Sleep Aid: LUNA
LUNA leads many other combination sleep aid brands, especially among people who want to make sure they only take vegan OTC sleeping pills. Its gluten-free, soy-free, and GMO-free. The main ingredients for this product include melatonin, chamomile extract, lemon balm extract, valerian root extract, and sedative GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). In other words, LUNA has made use of some of the most effective types of all-natural sleep aids to promote rest without relying on pharmaceuticals. If you appreciate the sense of warmth and calm you get from drinking camomile tea, you’ll like the fact that LUNA has incorporated it and other best-of-best herbal solutions into its formula.
Although this is a gentle product, it does have side effects:
- Daytime drowsiness
Buy on Amazon: LUNA
Sleep Easier With OTC Aids
As long as your inability to get to sleep is both temporary and not related to a more serious condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you may want to try OTC sleeping pills, capsules, or gummies. After all, you deserve to be able to rest your mind and body so you can feel your best.
Related Article: 6 Best Sleep Trackers
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