The sleep aid aisle at your local over the counter sleep aid is a confusing place. Many of these medications use antihistamines to promote drowsiness and come in a variety of forms like tablets, liquid, and even gummies. Whether these products are safe and effective depends on your individual needs. There are also natural supplements, such as melatonin and valerian that can be taken as sleep aids. However, these products are not as regulated by the FDA as pharmaceutical sleep aids.
Standard OTC sleep aids rely on antihistamines for their drowsiness-promoting effects, such as diphenhydramine (in products like Benadryl and Aleve PM) and doxylamine succinate (in Unisom SleepTabs). Some of these pills also combine the sedative with pain relievers, such as the combination in Tylenol PM. Antihistamines are generally well tolerated but may cause side effects like dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and trouble peeing. In addition, their sedating effect can last into the next day.
Sleep Delivered: A Consumer’s Guide to Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
OTC sleep aids are widely used by people with insomnia and other sleeping disorders. In a study by Aljohani et al., it was found that over the counter sleep aid medication containing diphenhydramine hydrochloride was commonly used by Saudi female students, especially those in higher educational institutions. The excessive use of sleep aids can be a dangerous habit and should be controlled.
Over the counter sleep aids can be bought without a prescription, but should only be used as directed. Excessive use of these medications can cause addiction and can lead to other health problems. In some cases, long-term use can affect your body’s circadian rhythm, which determines when you should stay awake and fall asleep. In other cases, it can worsen your chronic insomnia.