An Introduction to Over-the-Counter Sleep Supplements

5 mins read

The stress of work, family and social life can take their toll on our mind. Tossing and turning all night, while your brain runs at a million miles an hour, devastates energy levels and efficient thinking following day. Waking up feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck is not a good way to start the morning.

In such a case, it’s best to turn to over-the-counter sleep aids to help you get a good night’s rest. These compounds provide your brain with the nutrients it needs to switch off and relax. Here’s an introduction to OTC sleep supplements and how they can help.

OTC Sleep Aid Options

OTC sleep supplements are available in a wide variety of products from many different manufacturers. However, the majority of products are just rehashes of each other’s formulas. All they are is a few tweaks in dosage and various combinations of ingredients.

It’s best to start with a non-pharmaceutical option first when experimenting with sleep aids. Here are the most popular sleep supplements you’ll find on the labels of most products. Select the product that you feel will work for you, and ask your medical professional for advice.


The amino acid, L-tryptophan converts in the body to produce the hormone melatonin. This compound helps your brain to relax and drift off to sleep in a few minutes after retiring to bed. It’s the primary compound featuring in the majority of OTC sleep aids.

Melatonin has a mild effect and no addictive properties. Taking too high a dose results in mild grogginess the following day, as well as increasing the possibility of developing a headache.


Sleep aids like Benadryl and Aleve PM feature this antihistamine compound. Diphenhydramine has a sedative effect and will reduce motor function if you remain awake an hour after ingestion.

Side effects of the compound are much more pronounced than melatonin. Dry mouth, daytime drowsiness, and blurred vision are common the following day after a large dose. Other side effects may include urinary retention and constipation.

Doxylamine Succinate

This compound is another popular antihistamine-based OTC sleep aid. Its similar in effect to diphenhydramine, and also has similar side effects. 45-minutes to an hour after taking Doxylamine Succinate you’ll feel drowsy.

People who sleep less than 7-hours should avoid supplements containing this compound as it may make you feel groggy in the morning.

Herbal Sleep Assistance Options

Herbal OTC sleep supplements are a better option for those people that don’t agree with the sedative effects of anti-histamines. The following compounds are the most popular inclusions in OTC sleep supplements.

Valerian – Made from the roots of the plant, valerian offers a soothing and calming effect. The compound provides relief from nervousness and anxiety, with a few side effects.

Passionflower, chamomile, and lemon balm – These natural sleep aid alternatives are popular additives to OTC sleep aids containing melatonin. Chamomile is the most effective of the three and provides relief from anxiety and a busy mind.

No Miracle Pill

It’s important to note that OTC sleep aids are not something that you should use every day. They offer temporary relief from sleep disturbance and conditions such as insomnia. To get more insights on insomnia types, might be a good resource.

Regular use of anti-histamine-based products will damage the gastrointestinal system and liver over time.

Check with your doctor before self-medicating with any of these compounds. Individuals that continue to experience sleeplessness after 3 to 5-days may have a sleep disorder that requires a more aggressive approach to treatment. Speak to your physician for assistance.

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