Over the Counter Sleep Aids

You know that feeling when you are driving home after a long day of work? All you yearn for is a refreshing bath and a peaceful sleep to wash away the fatigue. Tomorrow morning you will wake up to a new day with that unique feeling of rejuvenation. Your energy will be rekindled. Although all this sounds perfectly normal to many, a significant number of people don’t enjoy this peaceful sleep, though they wish they did.

We go through the sleep-wake cycle each day, and any disturbance in the normal pattern can bring about chaotic consequences. The importance of sleep in the wellbeing of a human cannot be downplayed. The sleep has to be long and deep enough to allow your body to rest but again it shouldn’t be too long to the extent of interfering with your day to day activities. Sleep disorders refer to conditions that interfere with the normal sleep patterns of a person. They can be due to too much stress, a tight working schedule or an underlying medical condition.

The long-term effects of sleep disorders can be damaging to a person’s life because they affect their performance at work or school and impair social life. Eventually, the person ends up with serious mental health problems that could be irreversible. It is therefore good to seek the assistance of a health expert very early.

If you have a sleep disorder, you are likely to have trouble falling asleep. You get to the bed, and all you can do is stare in space. Even if you avoid touching your phone and try to lure sleep, it doesn’t come. Or you might be able to fall asleep, but after a short time, you wake up again. This is called fragmentation. You also feel tired and bored during the day. This feeling can be accompanied by the urge to take siestas every now and then. Someone with a sleep disorder tends to be irritable, and they cannot concentrate well on the daily tasks. If you display any of these symptoms, then you might need sleep medications.

When you cannot sleep, there is typically an underlying problem. One of the causes of the sleep disorders is stress. When you are stressed, it becomes difficult to get quality sleep. You might find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with a racing heart or after a terrifying dream.

Another set of conditions that sleep problems may be due to are breathing problems at night. Breathing itself is an automatic process that goes on even when you are deep asleep. However, if some events disrupt your breathing in sleep or the automaticity is lost, you will be awoken. These include conditions such as asthmatic attacks. Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea is also another event that wakes patients of heart failure from their sleep. It occurs because of fluid accumulation in the lungs when one is in a recumbent position. Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea occurs in congestive heart failure. Sleep apnea is also another cause of sleeping disorders. It happens in people with certain medical conditions and especially those who are obese.

Another cause of wakefulness is pain. When you are in severe pain, sleep wanes. When the pain is chronic, you will have several sleepless nights over an extended period and this has a negative impact on your mental health. Conditions that are likely to lead to chronic pain and subsequent sleeplessness include arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, and migraines. It is not uncommon to find sleeping medication prescribed in people with these conditions.

Nocturia is another problem that may disrupt your normal sleeping habits. The term refers to increased frequency of urination at night. It is a real bother and denies you peace because you have to empty your bladder every time.

Based on the cause and the progression of sleep disorders, they can be grouped into dyssomnias, sleep apneas, parasomnias, and narcolepsy. Parasomnias refer to sleep disorders that are characterized by abnormal movements such as sleepwalking, sleeptalking, teeth grinding or bruxism and bed wetting. In narcolepsy, there is increased amount of sleep and tiredness during the day.

Insomnia (lack of sleep) is treated with the use of a sleep aid. These can be over the counter sleeping pills or a natural sleep aid which tries to restore the sleep pattern. Other forms of sleep supplements can also be employed to help one get enough rest.

Best Over the Counter Sleep Aid

Just like in many other health conditions, the treatment of sleep disorders depends on a number of factors. It is for this reason that we can’t talk about one best over the counter sleeping pills for everyone. What works for person A may not work for person B. They might be having different health problems, for instance, one could have arthritis, and the other one has fibromyalgia. The drugs to be used here and the modalities of treatment are different.

The many causes of sleep disorders make it necessary to seek a medical diagnosis and let your doctor decide what the best sleep aid for your condition is. Many people experience insomnia and take it upon themselves to grab some sleeping pills from a pharmacy. When the first medication doesn’t work, they now go for strong sleeping pills in desperate attempts to get a decent night’s rest. Over the counter sleep aids might be effective but due to such abuses, the users don’t get the maximum response.

In an ideal hospital setting or any good clinic, there will be diagnostic tools for sleep disorders. The common ones include a polysomnography which assesses the oxygen levels, brain waves, and body movements during sleep. The electroencephalogram (EEG) is also essential in evaluating the activity of the brain during sleep. If there are any abnormal waves that are being generated in the brain, they will be picked up during analysis and the underlying cause will be sought. Another test that is important in evaluating sleep disorders is genetic blood testing. These tools, alongside a competent medical supervisor’s help, can be used to determine the severity of sleep disorders

Besides the synthetic drugs, there are also potent natural sleeping aids that have been shown to be very effective in alleviating sleep disorders. It is worth mentioning that sleep help does not only come from medications but also from other non-pharmacological therapies. These include relaxation techniques and psychoanalysis. Lifestyle changes are a good way to restore sleep patterns, and they include reducing alcohol intake and smoking. Dietary changes help a great deal, more so the reduction of sugar intake and increased vegetable consumption. If you are suffering from nocturia, you will achieve better sleeping time when you drink less water when going to bed. Caffeine, being a stimulant, ought to be avoided as much as possible because its longtime use leads to insomnia. Researchers have also established that making a sleeping schedule and sticking to it helps in maintaining regularity of your sleeping patterns and it makes the brain get used to attaining a fixed number of sleeping hours.

Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills comprise the pharmacological treatment of sleep deficiency. Several drugs are used in managing this condition. The majority of the drugs currently in use are those utilized for a short duration just to restore the normal sleep pattern. However, if one has chronic insomnia, the long-term medications should be used with close monitoring to assess the response and effectiveness. Since these drugs are prone to abuse, their use has to be well regulated, and if possible, a directly observed therapy will be preferred to achieve the best results. Here are the commonly used drug classes.


Many physicians will recommend this class of drugs in case you ask for the best over the counter sleeping aid (note, however, that in many countries the sale of this class of drugs is regulated both online and offline). They act by binding and activating a site on the GABA receptor. This way, the actions of the GABA neurotransmitter are boosted. The drugs generally lower the incidence of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and increase stage 2 of sleep while reducing stages 3 and 4. This way, they help in the initiation of sleep.


The second class comprises the non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. This class of drugs is used for the treatment of short-term insomnia. These drugs do not alter the normal sleep pattern, but they simply enhance relaxation. They make the muscles remain in a relaxed state and induce a state of sedation so that one achieves a good rest when they are asleep.

Melatonin Receptor Agonists

Another class comprises the melatonin receptor agonists. These drugs have been proven to be useful in people who have problems with sleep initiation. They also aid in the maintenance of a normal circadian rhythm and a normal sleep pattern.


Since depression can be a contributing factor for sleep disorders, treating the underlying problem, which is depression, will be very useful. If a person is diagnosed with depression, treatment should be initiated as soon as possible to prevent progression to insomnia and other mental disorders. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has been scientifically shown to be deficient in depression and even other mental disorders. Therefore, the serotonin reuptake inhibitors help in preserving serotonin levels. However, these drugs are best used as prescription medications because of their side effects.


Most of the OTC sleeping pills are antihistamines because they are considered safe to use. They are useful in treating insomnia but can also cause tiredness and drowsiness the following day.

Now let us look at some of the specific medications used in treatment of sleeping disorders


This is a drug that helps in initiating sleep. It is pharmacologically classified as an imidazopyridine. It works by reducing the excitability of neurons and thus producing a sedative and hypnotic effect. Initially, some people who used the drug would wake up at night a few hours after taking the pill when its initial effect would wear off. This led to the development of the sustained release form of Zolpidem called Ambien. The extended release helps to achieve longer and uninterrupted sleep.

The common side effects of Zolpidem include dizziness, nausea, and headache. Other side effects that are rarely experienced include allergic reactions, hallucinations, myalgia, sinusitis, rash, constipation, lightheadedness, and depression.


Eszopiclone is used in the treatment of insomnia. It acts via the benzodiazepine receptor by binding to it and inducing the actions of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The drug is known to cause drowsiness the next morning and therefore, it is best taken just before bedtime, at least 7 to 8 hours before the scheduled wake up time. It shouldn’t be taken after a fatty meal because this lowers its absorption and leads to reduced efficacy.

The side effects of eszopiclone are headache, unpleasant taste in the mouth, dizziness, nervousness, rash, pruritus, and somnolence.


It is a short-acting drug used in the management of short-term insomnia. It also acts as a GABA agonist. Its short duration of action makes it a preferred medication for many people because even if you took it in the dead of the night, it would help you fall asleep, and in the morning you will not feel drowsy. The side effects associated with Zaleplon use are headache, dizziness, nausea, amnesia, and paresthesia.


This is a benzodiazepine that stays in the system for long. It is thus useful in treating conditions like sleepwalking. Some of the side effects of benzodiazepines include headache, dizziness, drowsiness, ataxia, and lightheadedness. Due to its longer stay in the body, you don’t want to drive the morning after taking it. Triazolam and other benzodiazepines are also known to induce dependence so that after some time of use, you will only be able to sleep after using them.

Best Natural Sleep Aid

Natural options have also been explored in the manufacture of the sleeping pill. And from the numerous natural remedies that are now known, it is evident that the search for the best natural sleep aid has been a successful one. From natural supplements to sleep aiding foods, the list of natural solutions to this problem is a long one and this augers well for people who have long struggled with sleep disorders.

Valerian Root

Historical evidence suggests that valerian has been used as a remedy for insomnia from time immemorial. It was also used to reduce nervousness. Valerian is believed to act by boosting the action of GABA which has an inhibitory effect on neurons.

You can take the valerian capsule or just go natural and use the root itself. For the latter, you will need a teaspoonful of dried valerian root and fresh water for boiling the root. The concoction is prepared to yield Valerian tea which can be taken with milk and honey to reduce the strength of the scent. You can then be assured of a peaceful night’s sleep after taking a couple of sips.

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium helps in the functioning of the GABA receptors. The magnesium supplements, therefore, help you calm your nervous system. In people lacking this mineral, the supplements are a good way to restore sleep patterns.


Chamomile has also been used since olden days to make people doze off easily. It contains a substance called apigenin which binds and stimulates the actions of GABA. In the end, your muscles are relaxed, and you slowly drift to oblivion. The chamomile flowers are steamed in water and then served hot. What a way to say get to sleep on a chilly night.


The amazing catnip plant is what every human who desires good sleep should plant in their backyard. However, beware that it makes cats go wild. You can use it dried or when fresh. Boil in a kettle and empty in your cup to enjoy an amazing pre-sleep therapy.

Passion Flower

Passion flower is such an admirable sleep inducer. Many consider it to be as effective as benzodiazepines. But the good thing is that it does not cause drowsiness the next day. Therefore, you will be fresh and energetic when you wake up. What’s more, it is a great reliever of anxiety.


We wouldn’t be done with the discussion about natural sleeping pills before mentioning the awesome Wondersleep. Well, if we were to rank, then Wondersleep would surely feature on the list of best sleeping pills. What makes it one of the most effective natural sleep aids is the fact that it is a combination of several herbs that have been shown to have a relaxing effect on the mind. After intensive research, Wondersleep came into being, and it is no doubt a savior for people with sleep disorders.

Wondersleep is made up of six active ingredients that have been used over a long time for calming and relaxation purposes. Let’s take a glance at the wonder ingredients.

Nardostchya Jatamanshi is one of the ingredients which belongs to the valerian family and grows in parts of Asia. The plant has been used for long as a relaxer of the mind thanks to its sedative properties. Furthermore, it is used in relieving stress symptoms and tension.

Ferula Narthex or asafetida, as it is commonly known, is a plant of the fennel family which grows in the Middle East and has been known for its use as a sedative. Moreover, it also relieves anxiety and chronic fatigue.

Withania Somnifera, otherwise known as winter cherry, is a sleep inducer that has been in use for a long time now. It is a useful reliever of nervousness, stress, and anxiety. Besides, it is also believed to boost the immune system, and it has antioxidant properties.

Piper Longum Root or simply the roots of the long pepper are known for their effective relief of stress and insomnia.

Hyoscyamus Niger grows in the Middle East, and it has long been used as a pain reliever as well as a remedy for restlessness and irritability.

Valeriana Wallichi. Well, this one wouldn’t have missed being part of the mix. The well-known sedative and stress reliever wraps up the Wondersleep sleep aid.

Wondersleep helps you achieve a restful sleep, and when you wake up, there is no drowsiness pulling you back. Wondersleep does not have any addictive effects, therefore, you can quit the drug whenever you want, and you won’t experience withdrawal symptoms. Besides treating insomnia, Wondersleep helps as a stress reliever. And since it is an herbal medication, you can get it without a prescription. All these attributes make Wondersleep a drug that you would like to have whenever you experience trouble sleeping.

If you have been experiencing sleepless nights, I believe you can now afford a smile. There are many ways to get out of the sleepless bondage from drugs to non-pharmacological options. If you like natural meds, you are also covered. What’s more, you don’t need a prescription for all the meds. You can just check some of the best over the counter sleeping pills and look forward to a peaceful night.

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