Best OTC Sleeping Pills: Side Effects, Usage, And Precautions

otc sleeping pills

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about OTC sleeping pills including the best ones and their side effects.


Do you find it difficult to sleep? Does stress from your personal or professional life keep you up all night? Does jet lag, tiredness, or health-related issues adversely affect your sleeping pattern?

Are you tired of trying home remedies and different sleeping positions to get a good night’s sleep? Have you done everything from reducing your caffeine intake to cutting down blue screen hours before you go to bed? And yet you are struggling to sleep?

In that case, over the counter (OTC) sleeping pills are what you should be looking for. OTC pills can be purchased or ordered without prescriptions. They are easy to get your hands on and also safe. However, just to be on the side of precaution, you must consult a doctor. You never know in what way can your OTC sleeping pills interact with your existing medication.

Reasons For Sleeping Issues

Various biological, physical, environmental, and psychological factors affect our sleeping patterns. Sadly, not getting a proper eight hours of sleep every day can adversely affect your mental and physical health. Over time, this condition could be the root cause of several other health conditions such as abnormal blood pressure, work shift disorder, stress, etc.

Sleeping problems are often caused by:

  • Stress: To get a night of good sleep, your mind should be at rest. Problems from your personal and professional life can induce overwhelming stress and lead to sleeplessness.
  • Anxiety: People suffering from General Anxiety Disorder often find it difficult to put their minds at ease. Recurring thoughts and emotions can derange and destabilize the state of your mind.
  • Jet lag: Continuously traveling and moving across different time zones can cause sleeplessness as it negatively affects the internal circadian clock.

Best OTC Sleeping Pills

There is a wide range of over the counter sleeping pills available in the market. Following are the popularly used medicines:

1. Melatonin

The brain develops increased amounts of melatonin when it is dark, as compared to day time. This hormone is responsible to regulate the sleep cycle of the human body.

Sleeping pills enriched with melatonin can be helpful for people:

2. Valerian

Valerian is a herb well known for its medicinal qualities that cure sleep disorders. Medicines are made from Valerian root. It is also known for having other therapeutic effects such as reducing stress and anxiety.

Valerian is clinically proven to improve the quality of sleep in people suffering from insomnia.

Valerian root is used to curate herbal OTC pills that are helpful to improve:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Quality of sleep
  • Recurring stress
  • Reduce instances of frequent nighttime urination that disrupts sleep cycles

3. Antihistamines

Antihistamines and Diphenhydramine are the most common ingredients found in OTC sleeping pills. These sedatives create conditions of drowsiness and activate sleep-inducing hormones in one’s body, thus leading to an increase in sleep durations.

If consumed regularly, it can become ineffective over time as the patient’s body might develop a high tolerance against the drug.

Following are some sedating antihistamines used to promote sleep:

  • Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl
  • Doxylamine, the active ingredient in Unisom
  • Cyclizine, the active ingredient in Marezine

Side Effects Of OTC Sleeping Pills

OTC sleeping pills are usually safe, although they may impart minimal side effects. It is important to be aware of the side effects to ensure you do not panic when they occur:

  • Stomach discomfort and possibly mild digestion issues. This could lead to urinary retention and constipation.
  • Dizziness due to relaxed blood vessels in the arteries. This can lead to unsteadiness when standing and shabby walking.
  • Blurred vision due to reduced blood flow to the optic nerve. This is why it is dangerous to operate machinery or motor vehicles when under the influence of OTC sleeping pills.
  • A moderate to severe level of drowsiness the following day, followed by nausea.
  • Consuming antihistamines with other cold or allergy medicines that also contain antihistamines can lead to a possible overdose of antihistamines.

When To Use OTC Sleeping Pills?

To find the best sleeping aid, it is crucial to find the cause or source of your sleeping problems. It can help you find appropriate medication and get rid of the symptoms as well.

If you are facing sleeping problems because of plenty of stress, anxiety, mental discomfort, or jet lag, then OTC sleeping pills could be helpful for you.

It is recommended to consume sleeping pills for not more than two weeks without medical supervision. If the problem still prevails, consult a doctor.

It is advisable to follow the instructions mentioned on the labels of OTC sleeping pill packages, especially the ones containing antihistamines and valerian.

If you are experiencing:

  • Jet lag: Take melatonin a few hours before your original bedtime.
  • Shift-work Disorder: Take 2–3 mg of melatonin at the end of your shift.

OTC Sleeping Pills: Precautions

While OTC sleeping pills are a safe option, there are a few precautions you should keep in mind to avoid extreme side effects and ensure overall well-being.

  • If you are suffering from asthma or urinary retention do not consume supplements with diphenhydramine and doxylamine. This could worsen the issue and lead to respiratory problems or prostate gland malfunctions.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should strictly avoid consuming any type of sleeping pills.
  • Avoid participating in activities that require extra alertness and attention such as driving, cooking, operating electrical equipment, and even weightlifting.
  • OTC sleeping pills are only a temporary solution to your problems. It is advisable to take not more than one pill a day.
  • Resist consuming alcohol while you are on sedatives. Alcohol can aggravate the reaction and call for the side effects of the pills to occur quicker than usual.

Wrap Up

Some patients even prefer to consume antidepressants, although the FDA has not approved the use of this medication type for insomnia. If you have strong will power and control over your thoughts, then you could fight the depressive thoughts that these medicines have a tendency to induce.

Consider trying self-brewed Chamomile tea, Tryptophan pills, or Kava pills to improve your sleep cycles. Ramelteon (Rozerem) is another great medication that targets the sleep-wake cycle and not the Central Nervous System (CNS) like daily antidepressants do.

You can also try Doxepine (Silenor), Eszopiclone (Lunesta), Suvorexant (Belsomra), Triazolam (Halicon), or Zalpidem (Edluar, Intermezzo).


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