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By Kajal Jain

M. Pharm

20 December 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kajal Jain
M. Pharm
Table of Contents

Many factors cause sleep disturbance, including physical factors like injury, pain, and headache; other medical issues like heart disease, lung disease, or sleep apnea; and psychiatric disorders like depression, stress, and anxiety.

Millions of adults suffer from sleep difficulties; 31% say they have insomnia. Some insomnia symptoms include less interest in school, college, and the office; poor environmental performance; staying less active; a slowed response; poor concentration; and being tired all the time.

If you face sleep disturbances for a prolonged period, it is a condition called insomnia. You should consult the doctor immediately. Your doctor may find out the exact cause of insomnia and help you with the withdrawal effect. There are plenty of sleeping pills available in the pharmaceutical world. 

It helps you put your brain in a calm state and reduce your stress level, producing good sleep for your body. Sleeping pills are necessary for people who wake up in the middle of the night.

You would never be advised to take sleeping pills alone for an extended period. Sleeping difficulty at night is prone to take sleeping pills. You can consult with your doctor about which medications are suitable for you. Let us now discuss some details about sleeping pills.

What Are Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills are used by people suffering from trouble sleeping, called insomnia, a common condition that should be treated with sleep aids when it develops over an extended period. It helps treat insomnia and makes you feel relaxed, which leads to sleep. There are some OTC drugs, like antihistamines, to treat allergies in the body that make you feel drowsy. 
Melatonin is a natural hormone that induces sleep in your body, and valerian is an herbal supplement that helps you feel relaxed.  

What Are The Active Ingredients Of Sleeping Pills?

Melatonin is the hormone produced by the human body for specific functions; in that, it helps maintain the circadian rhythms ( Basically to keep awakening and sleeping). These will be the active ingredients in the sleeping pills involved in the medicine and help you get better sleep.

How do Sleeping Pills Work On The Body?

Nowadays, sleeping pills are available in different varieties, and each tablet works differently according to your body. Some medications lead to drowsiness, makes your brain peaceful, and provide calmness. 

Studies show that sleeping pills do not provide a possible result in promoting better sleep during nighttime. Most people who take sleep aids will start getting sleep within 8 to 20 minutes as soon as they take medicine. The sleep medicine you will be opting for should be used only for the short term. 

No, sleeping pills are available in the UK. You can either visit your doctor or buy them from OTC. Most drugs are in the antihistamines category, making you feel tired and sleepy.
When it comes to older adults, sedative properties are riskier because they are more sensitive to medicines when compared to younger adults.
While mixing sleeping pills with other drugs, you should be cautious. Remember combining two or more drugs that depress the central nervous system can lead to difficulty breathing.

How Long Do OTC Sleeping Pills Take To Work?

Every medication you consume has a set time for its working. So whenever you take medicine, know its working timing so that you can be ready to see the changes. While taking OTC pills, each pill has some differences from others, but generally, it would start working in 30 minutes in your body.

How To Use Sleeping Pills Safely?

While taking OTC pills, you should follow some rules and regulations. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine Instructs the following advice to the people as 

  • Consult with your doctor; never take pills without approval
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while taking drugs
  • Do not drive your vehicle to avoid unnecessary damage when using sleeping pills.
  • If you face any complications, visit your doctor. 

What Are The OTC Sleeping Pills Available? 

Nytol One-A-Night

Nytol One-A-Night is a hypnotic drug that relieves sleeping difficulties. It has the active ingredient diphenhydramine hydrochloride, an antihistamine that makes you sleepy and tired. It contains 50 mg of diphenhydramine hydrochloride per tablet. 

The way of consuming can be taken through the oral route. Take the pill 20 minutes before going to bed. Do not overdose on your drug, and do not use it with children under 16. You can get Nytol One-A-Night under its brand name, Diphenhydramine.

Nytol is one of a group of drugs called antihistamines. It works by blocking the histamine level. It changes the chemical substance around the areas of the brain region. It has side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, stomach upset, dry mouth, or headache. 
The drug can interact with the following medicines Gabapentin, Lisinopril, Metoprolol, and Cetirizine.


Sominex is a type of sleeping pill. It also treats sneezing, a runny nose, itching, and allergy symptoms. You would find the medicine in 50mg, which should be consumed before bedtime. It is not recommended for use by children.

You can get Sominex under Allermax, Diphedryl, and Compoz Nighttime Sleep Aid. It belongs to a class of antihistamines with anticholinergic activity. If you experience severe allergic reactions or other effects, such as extreme drowsiness, difficulty urinating, dry mouth, constipation, or restlessness, kindly visit your doctor.

Before interacting with Sominex and other drugs, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist. It may cause severe drowsiness if you consume medicines such as opioid medication, muscle relaxants, or seizure drugs. 

Kalms Night One-A-Night Sleeping Tablets

It is a group of traditional herbal supplements used to treat sleeplessness. It contains valerian, a sedative product that helps reduce the next day's drowsiness. It induces a refreshing, calming sleep in people.

Kalms Night One-A-Night has 385 mg of the active ingredient valerian root extract in one tablet, and you should take one per day. It is not used by people who are under 18 years of age.

It belongs to a class of drug valerian sedative herbal agents that promote calm sleepiness. It consists of side effects such as nausea, abdominal cramps, headaches, and vomiting. When it comes to interactions, if you take any other herbal products, you should consult your doctor first. Taking these pills with other drugs and food leads to sedative effects. While consuming, avoid drinking higher amounts of alcohol.

Nutrients 5 HTP Sleep Capsules

Nutrients 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can be converted to serotonin in the body. It is mainly used for depression. It is sometimes used for insomnia and Anxiety. It produces a serotonin chemical in the brain and central nervous system.

The initial dosage would be between 250 and 300 mg, which can be used for sleep management. It belongs to the type of herbal supplements if classified. There are a few side effects of the medicine, such as Nausea, Vomiting, Fullness, Abdominal pain, Shoulder pain, and Headache.

Some antidepressant medications that can interact with 5-HTP include the SSRIs Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), and Paroxetine (Paxil). Contaminated 5-HTP supplements lead to dangerous side effects; pregnant women and breastfeeding women should not use these supplements.

Microbe Bio-Live Sleep

Microbe Bio-live sleep is a liquid agent fermented by microbial cultures called probiotics with herbs and minerals. It contains the active ingredient of natural herbs, which results in sleep and relaxes your body. The initial dosage of the liquid is one tablespoon 20–30 minutes before going to bed, or for children, Take the medicine as the doctor decides. 

It is a natural substance that contains microorganisms such as yeast (Saccharomyces boulardii) and bacteria (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium). An allergy reaction, Gas trouble, Bloating, Constipation, Thirst, or Diarrhoea may trigger it.

It can interact with certain probiotics drugs, antibiotics, and antifungals (such as clotrimazole, ketoconazole, griseofulvin, and nystatin)


Doxylamine is a class of antihistamine drugs used for the short-term treatment of insomnia, allergies, fever, and the common cold. It works by blocking a substance called histamine, making you sleepy. It is available under a brand name called Unisom.

It belongs to a class of antihistamines. And the initial dosage a doctor recommends for adults is 25 mg once a day, 30 minutes before bedtime. As the medicine can make you sleep, it also has effects that could affect your health, such as dry mouth, drowsiness, nausea, increased chest congestion, headache, and dizziness.

Before getting into trouble by consuming Doxylamine with other drugs, you should consult your doctor. Usually, it won't have any severe interactions. But some of the powerful drug interactions are, fentanyl, fentanyl intranasal, fentanyl iontophoretic transdermal system, fentanyl transdermal, fentanyl transmucosal, isocarboxazid

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

Diphenhydramine treats insomnia, colds, coughs, or any allergic reactions. It is available under the brand name Benadryl. It is classified as an antihistamine class drug. 

As the initial dose given by the doctor, adults, and children 12 years of age and older can consume 25 mg to 50 mg, and children 6 to under 12 years of age can take 12.5 mg to 25 mg. Benadryl's side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, headache, constipation, blurred vision, stomach upset, or dry eyes. 

While conversing with your doctor about your drug history, a few drugs should not be mixed with diphenhydramine, such as opioid pain or cough relievers, for example, codeine and hydrocodone.


Valerian is used for Anxiety, depression, and premenstrual syndromes. In other words, it is available under brand names such as Santa Maria Ballerina, Baldrian Wurzel, Garden Heliotrope, and Herba Benedict. It belongs to herbal supplements, which help treat insomnia.

You can consume 300 to 600 milligrams (mg) of valerian root. You can take 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. Its side effects are Headache, Dizziness, Nausea, or Stomach upset.

Valerian Will increases the effect with other antidepressants such as narcotics and alcohol. Other drugs include anticonvulsants, like phenytoin and valproic acid, and benzodiazepines, like alprazolam and diazepam.


Melatonin is a natural substance found in plants and animals. The researchers suggested that taking Melatonin supplements will help you to feel relaxed. It is available under the brand name Melatonin-Pyridoxine.

There is no recommended dosage. It depends on each individual but typically ranges from 0.5 mg to 5 mg per day before bed. Melatonin has various side effects, such as headache, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, or drowsiness.

Melatonin may lead to a loss of effectiveness. Do not consume corticosteroids or other medications to suppress the immune system. It will create many issues if the interactive medicines are consumed with Melatonin. 

How Do I Find The Right Sleeping Pills?

The very first thing you should do is visit a doctor and confirm your health problem before starting sleeping pills. Sometimes it may be related to an injury or underlying disease that causes sleep disturbance.

Many sleeping aids are available, but each drug will work differently according to the dosage, time, and frequency. 

To find which sleeping pills are right for you, understand the basic information, such as

  • Getting medical information before taking your sleeping tablet, 
  • Visiting a healthcare provider 
  • Go through the questions a doctor will find out the causes of insomnia and prescribes a  suitable medication for you. 
  • Before consuming the tablet read the medication guide below the label, how to use the drug, timing, and any side effects, or ask your pharmacist for detailed information.

Who Should Avoid Taking OTC Sleeping Tablets?

For people who are older than 65 years, experts suggest avoiding sleeping pills. Compared to younger adults, older adults have a higher risk of health problems from taking sleep aids. Sleeping pills will stay in their system for longer when they are older. It will result in extreme drowsiness, leading to a high risk of falling. 

Other issues include confusion and memory problems. Before starting the sleeping pills, you should visit your doctor to discuss your health condition. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid consuming sleep pills. Health conditions like kidney disease, heart rhythm problems, and a history of seizures should limit your dosage.

Essential Precautions That Need To Be Taken

Precautions you should take while taking sleeping pills in proper ways, such as

  • Having enough time for a night's sleep

Sleeping pills will work correctly if you have a decent night's sleep. Most sleeping pills need to have a total of eight hours of rest. So patients should use them correctly according to the timing of the drug.

  • Be aware of side effects.

Ask your doctor about the side effects because, in some cases, they will lead to severe headaches and nausea. Inform your doctor if you have a history of depression because it may worsen the condition. Sometimes, it will reduce your Anxiety by relaxing your muscles. People adopt the drug and feel drowsy sometimes, which leads to abnormal thinking and hallucinations.

  • Take pills for short-term usage.

Doctors will prescribe the sleeping pill for nearly 2 to 4 weeks. In some cases, if you require longer, they will recommend the medication to you because, when used long-term, it becomes more addictive to the person as it causes memory and coordination impairment. This will have a dangerous effect on older people.

  • Do not stop the drug suddenly.

Stopping sleeping pills abruptly will result in rebound insomnia, and the patient will experience rebound symptoms. If you are planning to stop drug usage, your doctor will help you by reducing the dosage of drugs. 

  • Seek help If the OTC drugs are not working

Insomnia is common in Americans before the age of 50. Most women are more likely to have sleeping disorders than men. Insomnia can lead to heart disease, and depression can lead to injury or an accident. Your doctor may prescribe a suitable antidepressant that will help you reach a recovery state.

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

You may have heard of over-the-counter sleeping pills. Nowadays, most people suffer from a condition known as nighttime insomnia. As each medicine works best for conditions like insomnia or sleep disorders, it also has side effects that might negatively affect your health. 

Taking proper precautions would help; it would lower the chances of experiencing side effects. Common side effects can go away with time, but severe symptoms should be reported to your doctor for a quick solution. Various OTC tablets are available; however, before consuming the drugs, you should visit your doctor and tell them about your health history to avoid any dangerous effects.

  • Dement, William C. "Rational basis for the use of sleeping pills." Pharmacology 27.Suppl. 2 (1983): 3-38. From https://doi.org/10.1159/000137908 Obtained on 20/12/2022
  • Fratello, F., Curcio, G., Ferrara, M. et al. Can an inert sleeping pill affect sleep? Effects on polysomnographic, behavioral and subjective measures. Psychopharmacology 181, 761–770 (2005). From https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-005-0035-2 Obtained on 20/12/2022
  • Mintzes, B. (2019). Are Safety Warnings for Commonly-Used Sleeping Pills Reaching Those who Need them Most? The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. From https://doi.org/10.1177/1073110519876177 Obtained on 20/12/2022
  • Randall, Surilla, Timothy A. Roehrs, and Thomas Roth. "Over-the-counter sleep aid medications and insomnia." Primary Psychiatry 15.5 (2008): 52. Obtained on 20/12/2022
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