OTC Sleep Aids – Facts And Guide

OTC sleep aids are commonly used by those suffering of sleep problems or sleepiness. Sleep problems are very stressful and frustrating conditions. People do not realize this, but sleepiness is a very harmful condition indeed. People having excessive sleepiness suffer of body weakness or reduced energy levels, which hinder their working capabilities. In such cases, the use of OTC (over the counter) sleep aids would be the best solution for you to solve the problem of sleepiness. OTC pills are presently one of the most popular pills used in America. There are many popular brands of OTC sleeping pills, such as Tylenol PM, Sominex, Nytol, Nyquil, Advil PM and Benadryl. All of these greatly help to solve sleep related problems.

All OTC pills have different ingredients; however, one common ingredient to all is antihistamine (also known as diphenhydramine). It should be realized that not all OTC sleep aids are prescription medicines. This makes it important for people to be very careful when using them, as they can instead be dangerous to the health. On the other hand, OTC medications have been approved for use by the FDA, but should not be used for over two weeks. The main purpose of using OTC medications is to relieve the problem of occasional sleepiness in youngsters over the age of 12 and adults. It is necessary to consult a doctor if the problem still persists even after using the medications for two weeks.

OTC sleep aids – A Quick Remedy

OTC sleeping aids work as a quick remedy for sleepless nights. When antihistamines are used as sleeping aids, the need to go and see a doctor for prescriptions is no longer necessary, especially for simple cases such as jet lags. Instead, people can easily walk into any drugstore or pharmacy to get the right sleeping aid that would be suitable for use. However, it will be very helpful for people to learn some facts about OTC pills before purchasing them.

Popular OTC Sleep Aids

As mentioned earlier, antihistamines are the most common ingredients in OTC sleeping pills, and are also the most popular sleeping aids. The name “antihistamine” may sound familiar, because it is a medicine commonly used for fever and allergies as well. The main working agents in antihistamines are either doxylamine succinate or diphenhydramine hydrochloride. These two agents have sedative effects and work on the central nervous system (which is why they are also used for fever and allergy treatments). For occasional insomniac patients, 50 mg of diphenhydramine hydrochloride is usually enough. It is also a good option for people wanting a rest during a 12 hour flight. However, it is important to allot enough time to sleep once this medication is used, lest people may find it very difficult to wake up when they may have to. Diphenhydramine hydrochloride works fine for jet lags too, but high dosage leaves people feeling quite groggy after waking up.

Doxylamine succinate on the other hand, causes hangovers which last a whole day long, regardless of the hours of sleep one may have had. A lot of people also complain of having a lethargic feeling on taking these medications.
One thing both these substances have in common is the anti-allergic effect, which causes one to have a dry nose and mouth after sleeping. Due to these side effects, it is not advisable for people to use these substances beyond 10 days. Both doxylamine succinate and diphenhydramine hydrochloride are not meant for long-term use, because they also cause problems like anxiety, rebound insomnia and depression when used for long periods.


A safe alternative to the use of chemical OTC sleep aids and sleeping pills are valerian root, chamomile, humulus lupulus, melatonin and passionflower. Melatonin is the most widely used sleeping aid, and is a hormone produced in the brain, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycles. Its production is partially affected by the presence of light (artificial lighting or sunlight).

It is still important for people to be aware of the side effects melatonin has. First off, it doesn’t work on chronic insomniacs, or people suffering of hyperarousals. This is because the body must be naturally ready for sleep before this sleep aid can work effectively, as it cannot force the body to feel tired. Other side effects can be sleep disorientation related, which cause vivid dreams.

Guide – Using OTC Sleep Aids

  • It should be understood that sleep medications approved by the FDA are supposed to be used for people suffering of transient insomnia or those who have occasional sleep problems. They should not be used for long periods.
  • People should seek the recommendation of a doctor before using sleep medications, especially people suffering of breathing problems, glaucoma, or pregnant women and nursing mothers.
  • OTC sleep aids and medications must not be used with other sleeping pills, antihistamines, tranquilizers and sedatives.
  • Sleeping medications and aids should not be used by children under the age of 12.
  • OTC sleep aids should be used at bedtimes only.