A good night’s sleep is super important for your health. But sometimes, it can be a real challenge to get the rest that’s needed. Luckily, the best over the counter sleep aids may be able to help. “Sleep aids may improve sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), duration of sleep, and sleep quality,” Lindsey Elmore, PharmD, BCPS, told Bustle in an interview.
Most over the counter (OTC) sleep aids contain antihistamines, and the two most common active ingredients are diphenhydramine and doxylamine. Bill Fish, co-founder of Tuck Sleep, told Bustle that while these ingredients are similar, there are some differences you should be aware of. “Diphenhydramine [...] is the more popular active ingredient in OTC sleep aids,” he explained. “This is partially due because it is less expensive, but also because it leaves your system more quickly, thus reducing the chances of that drowsy feeling the next morning.”
Doxylamine has its benefits as well. According to Fish, it is stronger at sedating the sleeper, and also stays in the body longer — aka you may be able to sleep longer if you opt for a sleeping pill that contains this active ingredient.
While sleep aids are certainly meant to help, these products should only be used on a short-term basis (and make sure you consult your doctor before starting them). If you find that your sleep issues last longer than two weeks, it’s important to see your physician to determine the underlying cause of your sleeplessness.