The 7 Best Sleep Aids

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An over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aid can be useful during times in your life when insomnia or occasional sleeplessness is affecting your much-needed ZZZ’s. Whether you’re trying to manage jet lag, going through a particularly stressful time (like having a new child), or dealing with a shift change at work, the best sleep aids can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, Lindsey Elmore, PharmD, BCPS told Bustle in an interview.

Sleep aids come in many different forms — there are medications and even more natural options that can help (more on all of that in a second). But one thing to know is that all of these aids should only be used on a short term basis, Bill Tuck, co-founder of Tuck Sleep, told Bustle. “The goal of an over the counter sleep aid is to get through a small period of time where you may have issues getting to sleep," he said. "If these issues persist for longer than two weeks, it is recommended that you see a physician in an attempt to uncover the underlying issue as to why you are having trouble getting to sleep."

Oh, and it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before using any of these sleep aid options as well.

The Best Sleep Aids

Nearly all OTC sleep aid medications contain antihistamines, commonly diphenhydramine or doxylamine. Diphenhydramine is often less expensive, and it leaves your system more quickly (aka it reduces the chances of that drowsy feeling the next morning), said Tuck. “When it comes to doxylamine, it is considered stronger at sedating the sleeper, and also stays in the body longer thus helping the sleeper to stay asleep longer,” he said.

If you do not want to take an antihistamine to aid your sleep, there are a number of other options that have been said to help.

Here are seven highly-rated picks on Amazon that reviewers say have really made a difference when it comes to their sleep.

1. A Sleep Aid Pill With Diphenhydramine

If you’re looking for a sleep aid that contains diphenhydramine, then these ZzzQuil pills are your best bet. Each dose (two capsules) contains 50 mg of the non-habit-forming ingredient that can help you fall asleep in as little as 20 minutes. And with more than 930 reviews on Amazon and a 4-star rating overall, reviewers say that this sleep aid has really made a difference in their lives.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “When I know I'm going to get at least eight hours sleep, I take these and I sleep all the way through. Great product. I awake fully rested. I fully recommend this product to anybody who has trouble sleeping. [...] You will not regret it.”

NOTE: Children under the age of 12 should not take ZzzQuil.

2. A Sleep Aid Pill With Doxylamine

These sleep aid pills from Basic Care contain 25 mg of the active ingredient doxylamine succinate, which helps with night time sleep. Take one tablet 30 minutes before bed in order to get the full effects.

Amazon reviewers say that this pick helps them sleep all night long. They give it a 4.2-star rating among 740 and growing reviews.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “I find that these pills are very effective. [...] I take these pills 30 minutes before I go to sleep and sleep all through the night. Every night I have vivid dreams because I am getting deep rem sleep. I do not yawn throughout the day and feel well rested. I highly recommend these if you have trouble getting to sleep or trouble staying asleep.”

NOTE: These sleep aids should only be used for children and adults 12 years and older.

3. No-Swallow Melatonin Sleep Aid Tablets

These sleep aid tablets from Natrol Melatonin literally dissolve in your mouth... aka they can be taken anytime, anywhere with no water needed (and this process allows for faster absorption, too). Each tablet contains 10 mg of melatonin to help with sleepiness. Oh, and good news, Amazon reviewers say that the strawberry-flavored tablets actually taste good. They give this pick a 4.1-star rating among 2,800 and growing reviews on the site.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “Flavor is great! Easy to swallow just dissolve. Used melatonin for many years this brand is my favorite yet. Purchased several times. I find it does [its] job it's useful for my sleep…”

NOTE: Do not give this pick to children under 12 years of age.

4. A Sleep Aid Pill With Valerian Root

This sleep aid from Luna helps you fall and stay asleep, thanks to its sleep-friendly ingredients. It contains melatonin (3 mg per capsule), a blend of calming herbs (including extracts of valerian root, lemon balm, and passion flower), and sleep-promoting amino acids. And it’s even non-GMO, cruelty-free, and vegan. Take one or two capsules 30 to 60 minutes before bed and get ready to drift off into an amazing rest.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “I prefer not taking pharmaceutical medication if I can absolutely avoid it ,.. especially to help me sleep, so I tried this natural product. Most over the counter sleep aids make me feel groggy in the A.M. but not this product. It made me sleep soundly and restfully until early morning without the grogginess. I now take it regularly with some sleepy time tea about 1-1.5 hours before I go to bed and my sleep has improved dramatically [...] I highly recommend this product.”

5. A Sleep Aid Powder With Magnesium

This sleep aid from Natural Vitality features ingredients like magnesium and melatonin to help ease your body into restful sleep. The mixed berry flavored powder (sweetened with stevia) turns into a tasty drink that Amazon reviewers say helps them wind down for the day. And the drink itself is actually really easy to make: place the powder in a glass or mug (Natural Vitality recommends starting with 1 teaspoon of powder, and gradually increasing to 2 teaspoons from there), add water, let it fizz, then stir until dissolved. The drink can be taken with or without food, and is both vegan and gluten-free.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “I wish I could give this product more than 5 stars because it changed my life. [...] I've tried every pill, tea and good sleep habit you can imagine and none of it worked. BUT - I discovered Calmful Sleep about 6 months ago and for the first time in my life I'm sleeping! This formula does an amazing job of helping my mind and body relax, then gently puts me to sleep. Calmful Sleep works quickly, I sleep soundly through the night, and I don't feel groggy in the morning. [...] I highly recommend.”

6. An Essential Oil Blend That's Designed Specifically For Sleep

This blend of essential oils from Natural Riches is made with relaxation in mind; it has of a bunch of sleep-promoting ingredients like lavender, clary sage, and chamomile. What’s best is that the oils are 100% pure, natural, therapeutic grade, unfiltered, and undiluted (aka everything that you want and expect in a good essential oil). And if you’re not satisfied, this pick comes with a total money back guarantee. But don’t worry… Amazon reviewers say this essential oil blend is the real deal, giving it a 4.3-star rating among 320 and growing reviews.

If you’re not super familiar with essential oils, there’s actually lots of different ways to enjoy them. Use the oil in a diffuser or place a few drops on your pillow, comforter, or bed sheets to promote a good sleep environment. Try massaging the oil on the bottom of your feet to help release tension.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “I absolutely love this oil. I deal with insomnia weekly and ever since I started putting this oil into my diffuser, I am now able to fall asleep quickly. I have a 300ml diffuser and put 6 to 8 drops of the oil in. I have it sitting by my side of the bed but it will fill the whole room. My husband loves the smell and will relax and knock him out. I also sleep more soundly using this oil and feel so much more rested in the morning. I will be buying more of this before I run out. I highly [recommend] and you will not be [disappointed].”

7. A Soothing Passion Flower And Chamomile Tea

This soothing tea blend from Yogi is perfect for helping you unwind after a long day. The tea combines passion flower and chamomile with licorice, cardamom, and cinnamon for a naturally spicy-sweet flavor. It’s got no caffeine or artificial flavors/sweeteners, and is vegan, kosher, and gluten-free.

And making a cup of this tea is a breeze. The herbs are individually packaged in compostable tea bags. Bring water to boiling and steep for seven minutes. For stronger tea, use two tea bags.

Amazon reviewers give this pick a 4.4-star rating among 640 and growing reviews, and say that it is the perfect drink to enjoy before bed.

What Amazon reviewers are saying: “Best brand yet. This tea makes me relaxed and drowsy so I can doze off quicker. If you have a lot on your mind, or stress in your life and have trouble going to sleep you should really try this tea. Great taste, not bitter at all. I put a little honey in it. Both my husband and I are using it. You will love the taste. Let it steep the full amount of time. It's not going to knock you out but will relax you and make it easier to go to sleep.”

Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.

Studies referenced:

Rickels, K., Morris, R. J., Newman, H., Rosenfeld, H., Schiller, H., & Weinstock, R. (1983, May). Diphenhydramine in insomniac family practice patients: a double-blind study, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6348106.

Roozbeh, N., Ghazanfarpour, M., Khadivzadeh, T., Kargarfard, L., Dizavandi, F. R., & Shariati, K. (2019, August). Effect of Lavender on Sleep, Sexual Desire, Vasomotor, Psychological and Physical Symptom among Menopausal and Elderly Women: A Systematic Review, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31497578.

McDonnell, B., & Newcomb, P. (2019, September 26). Trial of Essential Oils to Improve Sleep for Patients in Cardiac Rehabilitation, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31556690.

Lillehei, A. S., Halcón, L. L., Savik, K., & Reis, R. (2015, July). Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26133206.

Experts:

Lindsey Elmore, PharmD, BCPS

Bill Tuck, co-founder of Tuck Sleep

Terry Cralle, registered nurse, certified clinical sleep educator, and Better Sleep Council consultant