Sleep Aids

NONPRESCRIPTION (OTC) medications are available to treat insomnia but there are differences between them:

• Diphenhydramine - Sleep aid products containing diphenhydramine are the best choice for the treatment of insomnia. Examples of these products include Unisom Sleep Gels, Sominex, and generic diphenhydramine products. The dose is 25-50mg at bedtime. Start with the lower dose and if necessary increase to 50mg.

• Some sleep aids like Tylenol PM also contain a pain reliever as well as diphenhydramine. These products are helpful when sleeplessness is accompanied by aches and pains.

Tips: READ the label. The amount of active ingredient varies from product to product. For example, Sominex contains 25mg of diphenhydramine while Unisom Sleep Gels contain 50mg of diphenhydramine. Generic products may save you money.

Doxylamine- Doxylamine is another active ingredient available OTC to treat insomnia. It is contained in Unisom Tablets. Do not get confused between the two products. Doxylamine has been studied less than diphendydramine and is not the preferred treatment.

OTC products are for short-term use. If insomnia persists more than 7-10 days, see your doctor.

OTC sleep aids can interact with other medications; do not mix with other medications or alcohol without checking with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side effects can include drowsiness the next day, dizziness, dry mouth/throat, dizziness.

• Talk to your pharmacist about OTC sleep medications

PRESCRIPTION medications are available from your doctor:

• Medications with a fast onset and short duration of action (to avoid excessive day time sedation) are usually preferred. Examples: Lunesta, Ambien, Sonata, Roserem.

All prescription sleep aids can interact with other medications. Do not mix with other medications or alcohol without checking with your doctor or pharmacist.

The elderly, and anyone who needs to get up during the night should take these products cautiously and only if the benefit outweighs the risk. The sedating effects of hypnotics increase the risk for falls. Doses should be lower for the elderly.

Alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol can cause restless sleep with awakenings within 2-4 hours and total sleep duration can decrease.


* Follow the directions closely

* Tell your doctor and pharmacist about ALL other medications (OTC, Rx, dietary supplements) you are taking; these medications are potent and can interact with other drugs

* Avoid alcohol when taking sleep medications

* Never drive a car or operate machinery after taking a sleeping pill

* Be sure to practice good sleep hygiene (ie. Eliminate daytime naps, follow a regular sleep pattern: go to bed and arise at about the same time each day, exercise regularly but not late in the evening, avoid eating heavy meals before bedtime, avoid alcohol or caffeine at night)

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