What Are Some Non-Prescription Sleep Aids?


Quick Answer

Nonprescription sleep aids include diphenhydramine, doxylamine, melatonin and valerian, according to Mayo Clinic. Diphenhydramine is a sedating over-the-counter antihistamine that is found in many sleep aid pills and capsules. While it promotes uninterrupted sleep, it also is known to cause daytime drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth and memory problems.

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Doxylamine, another compound found in over-the-counter sleeping tablets, is also a sedating antihistamine, according to Mayo Clinic. It has similar side effects and efficacy as diphenhydramine. The hormone melatonin is also used as a nonprescription sleep aid. By helping to control the body's natural sleep-wake rhythms, melatonin is a mild sleep aid best recognized for its ability to treat jet lag and reduce the time needed to fall asleep. Side effects include daytime sleepiness, dizziness and headaches.

Valerian is a natural, plant-based sleep aid that is used to promote better sleep and enable quicker sleep, according to Mayo Clinic. Potency varies, and the actual active ingredient is not know. Side effects of valerian includes headaches, excitability, uneasiness, abdominal discomfort and heart disturbances.

Many stores carry store-brand versions of brand-name sleep aids, according to Mayo Clinic. These contain the same formulations as brand-name products, have the same risk of side effects and are often less expensive.

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