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Over The Counter Sleep Aids 

as a Treatment for Insomnia


Over the counter sleep aids and prescription sedatives used as a treatment for insomnia are among the most widely used of all medicines. They work by depressing the central nervous system and may be helpful for occasional sleep problems, reducing anxiety and muscle tension.



Over The Counter sleep aids available in your local drug store



When we treat insomnia it is important to know what is causing sleeping troubles and try to solve the underlying problem first.

However, when people face unexpected life changes which cannot be easily solved they tend to reach for medicines, either prescription or OTC sleeping pills.


The most common over the counter sleep aids used in insomnia treatments are first-generation antihistamines, such as:

  • diphenhydramine
  • dimenhydrinate
  • doxylamine
  • pyrilamine

Most products contain diphenhydramine as a sleep aid.  Some of them may have additional ingredients for other problems such as sore muscles, backache, or other aches.

Here are some example of these products:

Search here for more of over the counter sleep aids:

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Antihistamines induce drowsiness and sleep in many people. However, they should be used only occasionally, no longer than 2 or 3 nights in a row, because it is relatively easy to develop tolerance to their sleep-inducing effects.

In addition, they may cause other unpleasant side effects, including:

  • morning grogginess
  • sedation and fatigue
  • mood change (confusion, anxiety etc.)
  • dizziness
  • blurred or double vision
  • dry mouth
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • skin rashes
  • frequency or difficulty in urination
  • heart palpitations

Due to their side effects (anticholinergic activity), they may be contraindicated in certain patients such as those with open-angle glaucoma or urinary disorders. They also should be avoided in individuals with cardiovascular disease, asthma, and benign prostatic hypertrophy.

What is interesting, even though sedation is the most common side effect of antihistamines, children and the older individuals using them may experience paradoxical excitation.

Although otc sleeping pills are easily accessible, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before using them, because of their possible interaction with other drugs or medical conditions.
Drinking alcohol should be avoided while taking antihistamines.
They may not be safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women.

In some cases, especially in individuals with severe or persisting insomnia, it will be more beneficial to see a doctor who may offer a prescription sleep medication that is more individualized in regards to age and medical profile of the patient.






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