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Sleep Aids for Insomnia: Which Over the Counter Sleeping Pills Are Best?

Posted on October 26 2022

Key Points

  • Sleeping pills can effectively treat insomnia, with many different types available over the counter. The most common ingredients in these pills are Diphenhydramine and Doxylamine.
  • However, sleeping pills come with some risks, including dependency. It's important to talk to your doctor about these risks before starting any sleep medication.
  • Many alternatives to sleeping pills exist, including herbal remedies, cognitive behavioral therapy, and sound therapy.

If you can't sleep at night, you're not alone. Millions of Americans have insomnia and other sleep disorders. While many prescription medications help you get a good night's sleep, several over the counter (OTC) sleeping pills can also be effective. But how can you choose between them, and are they even the best choice at all?

Like with many decisions in life, research is critical. You'll want to look into the different options, compare their pros and cons, and decide which sleeping pill is best for you.

In this article, we'll look at why you might need sleeping pills and when to decide to take them. Then, we'll look at how to choose such sleeping tablets before making a few recommendations. However, we'll also show you the downsides and alternatives, introducing Pzizz as a sleep aid that may revolutionize how you treat poor sleep. Let's take a look!

Why You Might Need Sleeping Pills

There are many reasons you may be considering taking sleeping pills. According to the Mayo Clinic, some common causes of insomnia include:

  • Stressful life events (job loss, divorce, etc.)
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Use of stimulants during the day (caffeine, nicotine, etc.)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Chronic pain

Insomnia can lead to severe problems, including fatigue, poor concentration, and an increased risk of accidents. It can also worsen heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Should You Consider Sleeping Tablets for Insomnia?

Many different sleeping tablets are available today, from herbal supplements to prescription medications. If you're considering taking sleeping pills, it's important first to try some lifestyle changes and home remedies. According to the Mayo Clinic, some simple tips to improve your sleep include:

  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
  • Exercising regularly (but not too close to bedtime)
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Limiting your exposure to light in the evening
  • Putting away electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime

If you've tried these tips and are still struggling to sleep, it may be time to consider sleeping pills. But with so many options available, how can you choose the best one for you?

How To Choose the Best Sleep Aid Tablets

There are several factors to think about when choosing sleeping tablets. First, you'll want to consider what type of sleep disorder you're struggling with. If you have difficulty falling asleep, you may want to look for a medication that helps you relax and fall asleep more quickly. If you wake up frequently during the night, you may want to look for a remedy that enables you to stay asleep.

You'll also want to consider the potential side effects of each medication. Some sleeping pills can cause drowsiness, grogginess, and dizziness the next day. Others may cause dry mouth, constipation, or headache. If you have any other medical conditions, you'll want to ensure your sleeping pills won't interact negatively with any other medications you take.

Finally, you'll want to consider the cost of each medication. If you have insurance, your insurer may cover some of the cost of prescription medications, meaning you may wish to consider them over OTC medication. However, OTC sleeping pills are generally much less expensive.

The Best Over the Counter Sleep Pills

Many types of sleeping tablets are available on the market, from herbal supplements to prescription medications. The best sleeping tablet for you will depend on your sleep disorder and overall health. You'll also want to consider the potential side effects of each medication before making a decision.


Antihistamines are in many OTC sleep aids. They're generally very effective at helping people fall asleep. However, they can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, and memory problems. Doctors do not recommend them for long-term use.

There are commonly one of two antihistamines found in sleeping pills:

Diphenhydramine: Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine found in many OTC sleep aids, such as Benadryl. It's generally very effective at helping people fall asleep. However, it can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and headache.

Doxylamine: Doxylamine is an antihistamine found in many OTC sleep aids, such as Unisom. It's generally less effective than Diphenhydramine, but it's also much less expensive.

It would be best if you only used sedating antihistamines as a short-term solution. The body gets used to them quickly and can become less effective over time. Equally, be careful not to overdose on antihistamines, follow product instructions and talk with a doctor to determine a safe dosage.

Some Popular Sleep Aid Tablets Containing Antihistamines

These medications are available over the counter, including online.

Benadryl: Benadryl is an antihistamine medication for insomnia, allergies, and cold symptoms. It's available in tablet, gelcap, liquid, and chewable forms. Benadryl contains Diphenhydramine and is available in both regular and extra-strength varieties.

Tylenol PM: Tylenol PM is an over the counter sleep aid that combines acetaminophen (a pain reliever) and Diphenhydramine. It's available in tablet form, is taken orally, and you can get it as either regular or extra-strength. Tylenol PM is for use as a pain reliever and sleep aid.

Advil PM: Advil PM combines ibuprofen (a pain reliever) and diphenhydramine. It's available in tablet form and is taken orally with a liqui-gel alternative available. Advil PM is also for use as a pain reliever and sleep aid.

Unisom: Unisom is an antihistamine medication used for insomnia and allergies. It's available in tablet form, is taken orally, and contains doxylamine. Unison claims to help you "fall asleep 33% faster" and brands itself as "non-habit forming." Alongside traditional pills, the company sells SleepGels, SleepTabs, SleepMinis, and SleepMelts.

Aleve PM: Aleve PM combines naproxen sodium (a pain reliever) and diphenhydramine. It's available as a tablet with a wide range of variety. Special soft grip-capped bottles are available for senior citizens and those with arthritis.

Sominex: Sominex claims it "helps you fall asleep fast and wake up rested and refreshed." The medication is available as caplets and tablets and contains Diphenhydramine. The makers say Sominex is "safe, effective, and non-habit forming."

ZzzQuil: ZzzQuil is an over the counter sleep aid from the makers of Vicks NyQuil. It's available in tablet and liquid form, with the liquid being taken orally with a dropper. The active ingredient in ZzzQuil is Diphenhydramine.

Kirkland Sleep Aid: Kirkland Sleep Aid from Kirkland Signature is a tablet that contains Doxylamine Succinate. It's to be taken orally and is non-habit forming. The product does not contain gluten.

Nytol: Nytol is available in tablet, caplet, and liquid form, with the makers recommending two pills before bed. The active ingredient in Nytol is Diphenhydramine. Nytol is for use as a sleep aid and to relieve occasional sleeplessness. A herbal version is also available.

Excedrin PM: Excedrin PM combines acetaminophen and Diphenhydramine. It's available in tablet form and is a pain reliever and sleep aid, mainly marketed for headaches. It's vital to get the correct version in the blue box, as other types of Excedrin may contain caffeine.


Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the brain's pineal gland; it makes you feel tired and relaxed and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Although Melatonin is produced naturally, certain things can decrease its production. For example, exposure to light in the evening can trick your brain into thinking you should be awake. To boost low melatonin levels, some people take supplements. These supplements are beneficial for treating circadian rhythm sleep disorders that reduce your melatonin levels. Melatonin may also help ease the symptoms of jet lag for airline passengers.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies Melatonin as a dietary supplement. This means it does not have to meet the same safety and effectiveness standards as other medications.

Some Popular Sleep Aid Tablets Containing Melatonin

Again, these medications are widely available without a prescription.

Nature Made Sleep: Nature Made is an over the counter sleep aid containing Melatonin. It's available in tablet form, and you take it orally. Nature MadeSleep makes the product in the USA "with quality global ingredients." The tablets are gluten-free and contain no synthetic dyes and no artificial flavors

Vitafusion Sleepwell: Vitafusion comes in gummy form, with white tea with passion fruit flavors. Vitafusion recommends two gummies at a time. The company claims its product helps sleep cycle regulation and aids with jet lag recovery. Vitafusion Sleepwell is gluten-free.

Pure Encapsulations Melatonin-SR: Available in capsule form and taken orally, Pure Encapsulations Melatonin offers sustained-release Melatonin for six hours. The capsules "support relaxation for restful sleep" and "regulates the body's natural sleep/wake cycle." Pure Encapsulations proudly boasts that its products are free from a whole range of things, including wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, and artificial colors. This makes the product ideal for vegans or those suffering from intolerances.

Now Foods Melatonin: Now Foods Melatonin comes in tablet and liquid forms and claims to help with the "regulation of normal sleep/wake cycles and the regulation of the immune system."

Source Naturals Melatonin: Source Naturals is an over the counter sleep aid containing Melatonin. It's available as tablets, lozenges, and as a spray. The lozenges come as either peppermint or orange flavor.

As you can see, several different OTC sleep aids are available. If you're having difficulty sleeping, you may want to try one of these medications.

While all these medications are generally considered safe and effective, they can cause side effects. These include dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, and dizziness. Some users have even reported headaches. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any medication, and always follow the instructions on the label.

The Downsides To Using Sleep Aids

As you can see from the sleep aids listed above, several side effects exist. These need to be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to use sleeping pills. The most common side effect is drowsiness which can lead to grogginess and dizziness the next day. Other side effects include dry mouth, constipation, headache, and stomach pain.

Some of these medications can also interact negatively with other medications you may be taking. This can mean that some sleeping pills are not suitable for those with other health conditions.

In some cases, people can develop a dependence on sleeping tablets. This means they need to take the medication to fall asleep. If you find that you need to take them more and more often, you may be developing an addiction. It's important to remember that sleeping pills are not a long-term solution to insomnia.

The Alternatives to Sleeping Pills

If you're concerned about the side effects of sleeping pills, there are several alternative treatments you can try. As previously mentioned, some people find that simple lifestyle changes can help. This includes exercise, relaxation techniques, and a regular sleep schedule.

Herbal Remedies: The Natural Sleep Aid

Herbal remedies are popular alternatives to sleeping pills. Many people find they're effective and have fewer side effects than medications. Equally, some people are wary of the pharmaceutical industry and prefer a natural sleep aid as an alternative.

Several different herbal remedies can help with sleep, including:

  • Valerian Root
  • Hops
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Passionflower

Herbal remedies are generally considered safe but, again, can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and an upset stomach. If you're seeking an alternative to avoid side effects, herbal remedies may not be the answer.


Some people living with insomnia are also finding CBD hugely advantageous. CBD is a compound found in cannabis that does not have the psychoactive effects of THC. This means that it won't make you high. CBD effectively treats several conditions, including anxiety, pain, and inflammation. Some people find that it helps them sleep better. However, you must check the legalities of CBD products in your area.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Others may need to try more specialized treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a talk-based therapy designed to change the way you think and, in turn, behave. This can include changing how you think about sleep. It can be an effective treatment for those with chronic insomnia.

However, one other possible solution is gaining popularity as an alternative to sleeping pills: psychoacoustics.

Introducing Pzizz as a Sleep Aid

At Pzizz, we pride ourselves on being different from other sleep apps. We utilize psychoacoustic principles to deliver clinically validated results. We have based what we do on years of research into how the brain responds to sound and how that might be beneficial in terms of inducing sleep.

Psychoacoustics studies how sound affects our mood, emotions, and behavior. A growing body of research suggests that certain types of sound can help induce sleep. From psychoacoustics comes psychoacoustic therapy. This new insomnia treatment uses sound to help the patient rest.

The tones heard during this therapy are specifically designed by experts to promote sleep. Pzizz uses a combination of sounds and music to help you relax and fall asleep. The app is easy to use and effective, meaning you will get great sleep without changing your habits or worrying about side effects! You can adjust the length of time our "dreamscapes" run, the volume, the 3D effect, and the narrator. This creates a unique listening experience.

In one study published in the Cognitive Technology Journal, researchers pitted Pzizz against other popular insomnia treatments. Pzizz came out ahead by a large margin, with the study noting that the difference was statistically significant.

If you're looking for an alternative to sleeping pills, Pzizz is worth considering. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.


There is a vast range of over the counter sleeping pills available. Antihistamines are perhaps the most common, with Diphenhydramine and Doxylamine being the most active ingredients. These can cause side effects, and you may wish to try different brands to find what works.

However, sleeping pills are not the only answer to insomnia. There are several other solutions, including psychoacoustic therapy. So, if you're looking for an alternative, consider Pzizz as an app that can help you fall asleep.


What are the best over the counter sleeping pills?

Some popular over the counter sleeping pills include Diphenhydramine (found in Benadryl) and doxylamine (found in Unisom).

What are some of the risks associated with taking sleeping pills?

Some risks associated with sleeping pills include dependency, tolerance, abuse, and rebound insomnia. It's important to talk to your doctor about these risks before starting any sleep medication.

How effective is Pzizz as a sleep aid?

Pzizz is an effective treatment for insomnia. In one study published in the Cognitive Technology Journal, researchers pitted Pzizz against other insomnia solutions. Pzizz came out ahead by a large margin.