Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Aids

A guide to common-and not so common-sleep remedies and what you should know before trying them

Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills

Over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills are less powerful than prescription varieties, but they can help you beat occasional insomnia. They all rely on antihistamines, like doxylamine (Unisom and Medi-Sleep) and diphenhydramine (Sominex and Simply Sleep), to induce drowsiness. You can also find these ingredients in many cold medicines and a host of OTC pain relievers.

Dr. Esther says that OTC sleep aids can help you fall asleep easily, but they may lead to a dry mouth, a dry nose or a groggy feeling long into the next day because the antihistamine ingredient takes awhile to cycle through the body. They should never be taken with alcohol, prescription sleeping medications or antidepressants since their effects can be intensified to a dangerous level when mixed.

Sleep Supplements

Melatonin is a fairly wellknown supplement used to improve sleep. It helps regulate your “sleep clock,” which signals the brain when it’s time for sleep. It’s often recommended to overcome jetlag or recover from a disrupted sleep schedule. But if taken incorrectly–too much or at the wrong time–it can further disrupt your sleep schedule, so follow instructions carefully.

Made from Griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a supplement that helps boost serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, controls appetite and regulates sleep. It may be especially effective for people who can’t fall asleep due to anxiety and stress.

While supplements may make it easier to fall asleep, they may not keep you asleep throughout the night.

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