Ask the Pharmacist

Q: Can you recommend something to help me sleep? I don’t want to take any addictive prescription medication.

A: When you can’t sleep, it’s difficult to get through each day. Fortunately, many over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids are safe and effective. Here are a few options you can try.

OTC sleep medications like Unisom, any pain relief “PM” medication, and Benadryl all contain antihistamines. These antihistamines are usually used for allergies but are so sedating that they are also used to induce sleep. They only last for about four hours however, so they are helpful if your problem is falling asleep not staying asleep all night. They can also have side effects, including blurred vision, constipation, dry mouth, and urinary retention.

Melatonin is a hormone that is used to regulate your sleepwake cycle. The effects of melatonin are usually mild, but this OTC sleep aid does appear to reduce the amount of time it takes some people to fall asleep. It is especially helpful with jet lag to reset your body’s sleep cycle.

The herbal supplement valerian is made from the plant called valerian root. This sleep aid is meant to relax your body, regu late your sleep cycle, and reduce anxiety.

There are many essential oils that are relaxing and helpful for sleep, including lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver. They can be diffused throughout the night or applied topically to the bottoms of your feet.

CBD oil has also been shown to be an excellent sleep enhancer, especially if your sleeplessness is due to an overactive mind, stress, or anxiety. CBD oil may help you achieve a more relaxed state, allowing you to drift off to sleep.

It’s important to keep in mind that sleep aids are not a magic cure for serious sleep problems. If you are having long-term trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your health care provider.