Has everything going on in the world lately left you feeling stressed and exhausted? If you’re struggling to get quality sleep and want to do something about it, you’re not alone. Chances are you’ve tried common tricks like going to bed at the same time, avoiding caffeine late in the day, turning off screens before bed, exercising regularly, and managing your stress as best you can. you can. If none of these work, you may consider trying an over-the-counter sleeping pill.
But are sleeping pills safe? a valid concern, says Natalie Williams, MD, family physician at the Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, TX. “It’s important not to see medicated sleeping pills as a long-term solution. You can develop a tolerance to it and some sleeping pills are contraindicated in certain conditions,” she explains. If you use them regularly, she suggests consulting your doctor, as there may be an issue preventing you from getting quality sleep, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. In the short term, sleeping pills can be a useful tool.
It goes without saying that sleep is an important part of overall well-being, says Dr. Williams. “Getting enough sleep is good for your heart, brain, mood and immune system, and helps with productivity,” she adds. “Meanwhile, poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and depression.”
What are the different types of sleep aids available over the counter?
The two main types of sleep aids you will find on the market are sedating antihistamines and melatonin. Sedating antihistamines can be diphenhydramine (think Benadryl and Aleve PM) or doxylamine succinate (the main ingredient in NyQuil), says Dr. Williams. If allergies, headaches, or minor aches are disturbing your sleep, diphenhydramine may be helpful. Doxylamine succinate is for people who cannot fall asleep, but not because of other problems.
“Antihistamines work by blocking the action of histamine, a substance associated with allergy symptoms,” says Dr. Williams. “Besides clearing up congestion, it also causes drowsiness, hence why it is used as a sleeping pill.” But there are nasty side effects associated with using antihistamines on the diet, including headaches, drowsiness, blurred vision and constipation.
On the other hand, melatonin is considered a more natural option since it is a hormone that your body produces naturally. “Your body’s melatonin level tends to be highest at night and lowest in the morning,” says Dr. Williams. “Melatonin helps your body know it’s time to relax and sleep. So it doesn’t knock you out, like antihistamines do. And you are unlikely to become addicted to melatonin, nor are there many side effects.
Improving sleep hygiene and melatonin are recommended before take sedating sleeping pills, especially if you have a lot of medical conditions or medications, says Dr. Williams. Elderly people or those on other medications should talk to their doctor first before adding over-the-counter sleeping pills to the mix. Also, if you feel the need to use a sleeping pill for long periods of time (more than seven consecutive days) or increase your dose, Dr. Williams says there’s likely a bigger issue affecting your sleep, than you should discuss with your doctor.
Again, sleeping pills are not meant to be permanent solutions and come with risks if taken too long. Although they are not addictive in the same sense as prescription sleeping pills, you can quickly become addicted to them. If you have taken sedative-type sleeping pills and find that the recommended dose is not enough, talk to your doctor, as it is easy to develop a tolerance to these and increasing the dose could be dangerous.
Here are the top 10 sleeping pills to help with occasional sleepless nights.
Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief Tablets
If allergies cause constant sneezing and congestion, making sleep impossible, try the nighttime formulation of Benadryl. You may want to save them for the weekend, as the drowsiness can last until the next morning.
Aleve PM Pain Relief & Nighttime Sleep Aid
Minor pain keeping you up at night? Combining a pain reliever that promises 12-hour relief and non-addictive sleep aid, Aleve PM is a solid solution, especially if its daytime counterpart works well for you.
LiquiCaps Nighttime Sleep Aid
Do you know how NyQuil works like a charm for you and makes you fall asleep immediately when you have a cold? If you do, ZzzQuil can be a good option when you’re dealing with a few days of insomnia or lack of quality sleep that isn’t related to illness. Note that you should not take these pills if you are using other products containing diphenhydramine.
Simply Sleep Overnight Sleep Aid Caplets
Although these caplets are from the makers of Tylenol, they do not contain any painkillers, they are only used to promote sleep. You might want to give them a shot if Tylenol is your go-to for headaches, colds, and other minor ailments.
Pure Zzzs Melatonin Sleep Aid Gummies
For a more natural, non-addictive option, try these melatonin gummies. They’re blended with other sleep-inducing ingredients like chamomile, lavender, and valerian root to help you wake up feeling refreshed and not groggy.
Sleepytime Extra Caffeine Free Tea
Sleepytime tea may be nature’s OG sleep remedy, and this “extra” version gets a boost of relaxation from valerian root and chamomile. Although valerian is known to be a powerful herb, it is not habit forming, and neither is this tea.
Valerian root extract
Valerian root is believed to help with sleep, relaxation, and stress management. According to the manufacturer’s instructions, simply take two drops of this liquid extract by mouth or add it to a drink such as water, juice or tea. Either way, do it 20-30 minutes before bed for maximum benefits.
If you prefer to keep things simple, go for pure melatonin like this. It has no artificial flavors or preservatives and it is gluten free.
This powder is a bit pricey, but it can be made into a comforting drink similar to hot chocolate by adding hot water or milk. It contains melatonin and magnesium, which is also associated with better sleep.
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