How to Solve Your Insomnia Problems with OTC Sleep Aids

How’s your sleep going in 2013?  We have already determined that the lack of sleep can lead to health problems & deter our weight loss efforts!  Tomorrow starts National Sleep Awareness Week. My Health Monday is dedicated to this topic today.  I’d be willing to bet that most adults don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours a night.





I often times stalk my personal Facebook timeline late a night and find many people up with sleep disturbances.  I will usually send them one of my very first posts on Lifestyle Modifications for Insomnia.  You may have missed it because it was one of about 5 pre-post before I officially launched PFL.  In that case, please check it out here.  It had great feedback and lifestyle changes truly are the first step to tackling the insomnia battle.





Remember last week’s post “Brandz A Make You Dance” where I mentioned keeping Benadryl (or store brand) on hand for potential allergic reactions?  That’s not all it’s used for.  The active ingredient  (Diphenhydramine) is the #1 ingredient used in products marketed to help with sleep.   See the following products below that all contain this ingredient.




On last weeks post, there were opinions on both sides of the spectrum with reference to BRAND vs. GENERIC (Thank you for your comments btw 🙂 ).  Donna from the Discount Thief  says she always compares ingredients with the store brand.  If you follow suit, what you will find is that most of the above products are 50 mg and Benadryl comes in 25 mg.  So what does that mean?


Taking 2 capsules of Benadryl equals the same thing and saves you money!!!




If pain is keeping you up at night, you can take Advil/Motrin PM or Tylenol PM.

Pain and Sleep


Doxylamine is the other antihistamine that is used for sleep in OTC formulations and marketed as Unisom as well.



HERE’S THE THING – These products containing Diphenhydramine & Doxylamine can build up tolerance VERY quickly!  The conclusion for you is – ONLY USE THEM TEMPORARILY, I’m talking like my blog friend Toronto Runner  & fellow Pharmacists in Shouty Capitals because I want you to make sure not to make this your regular sleep aid. 

Elderly peeps need to stay away from these as well because of the side effects I mentioned in this Devil post of trouble urinating, constipation, blurred vision, and dry mouth.




Herbs  – Valerian, Passionflower, Skullcap, Chamomile, Hop, Lavender, & Kava (watch out for liver toxicity with this one) are generally safe but the effects are very mild if any.


Homeopathic medicine is extremely popular and can be used but they don’t have any proven studies to support their claims.  There are several products on the market to choose from, but I don’t have any specific recommendations because I don’t use them.  What I will say, if you are an all-natural type person, if one doesn’t work, then try a different formulated homeopathic product for better results particularly for you.

Dietary Supplement Melatonin



This is very popular, safe, effective, and has proven studies to show for it.


That’s it for My Health Monday!  In treating Insomnia, remember…

  1. First Step would be Lifestyle Modifications
  2. Today’s post has the information you need in moving to the second step, but ONLY as a temporary solution (4 – 6 weeks at the most).
  3. If the 1st two steps are unsuccessful, see your physician.

Rx Fitness Lady wants to know…

  • What homeopathic sleep aids have you used and found to be successful?
  • Can you go back to sleep after a nightmare? …. Care to share a weird dream or nightmare you’ve had lately (I’m always amused by these)?
  • Who else besides Nellie, Michell, & The Doses registered for SITS blog boot camp in Charlotte…clearly I’m excited about that?
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Rx Fitness Lady

Greetings, I'm Joi, a Pharmacist with a passion for fitness & a community leader. I teach BODYCOMBAT, BODYPUMP, Tabata Boot Camp, & serve as a mentor to young girls. My goal is to inspire people to live healthy, active, & prosperous lifestyles through practical blog posts deliveries. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. You can view more post and subscribe to stay tuned to latest updates at Rx Fitness Lady.

32 thoughts on “How to Solve Your Insomnia Problems with OTC Sleep Aids

  1. So glad you posted about this, I’ve been thinking about getting something to help with my sleep because it hasn’t been very good lately. Usually stress and worrying right before bed make me so wired that everyone else is sleeping and I am busy staring at the ceiling meanwhile I have to get up at 5 everyday. I will look into Benadryl, these are not habit forming right? That’s what worries me the most
    Nellie recently posted…MomsRising FoodPower Conference Recap — Part OneMy Profile

    • Hi Nellie, sorry it took so long to reply to this, but it sounds like the Lifestyle Modifications would be most helpful to you. I would try the Melatonin for a regular assistance, no side effects and not addictive. THe Benadryl you can keep on hand for random incidents where you just really need to get to sleep, but don’t make it a regular treatment. It is very short term. Make sure you have a full 8 hours to sleep it off as well or you will awaken at 5 and feel groggy and probably not have the best day. Oh and it can become habit forming to pop a Benadryl, so use it wisely. Hope this helps my friend!

  2. I am so afraid I will get addicted to the pills I don’t take them but I am having problems sleeping at night funny thing is I can sleep just fine in the daytime. One of tweeps told me to try the sleepytime tea so I bought some and I will try it out.
    Kita recently posted…Its all about blogging babyMy Profile

    • Let me know how the sleepy time works. Naps during the day can really affect your sleep. I would veer away from them if at all possible. If absolutely necessary, then go for a 30 min power nap only.

  3. Thank God I don’t have sleep problems, but I know so many people who do. The funny thing though, is that Benadryl is the ONLY otc medicine that will knock me out, lol! Thanks so much sharing, I’ll have to pass the info on! Have a blessed week lady! 🙂
    Michell recently posted…A Silent StrengthMy Profile

  4. I’m with Michell, Thank God I don’t have sleep issues. Usually on the night I’m having issues with sleep, I just send my hubby into the guest room…that usually solves the problem (snoring…lol).
    Hope recently posted…12-12-12My Profile

    • LOL, that is too funny. I have a very mild snoring problem…hope I don’t get sent out of the room one day!

    • You are crazy Britton! I cannot reply to that Ambien comment, lol! Yeah, though you have to make sure you have enough time to get the sleep in if you are going to take one of these antihistamines, maybe even 9-10 hours as opposed to just 8.

  5. My sleep is up and down. I never feel well rested, especially during the work week. I am up now commenting on my bloggy friend’s websites. There never seems to be enough time in the day! I’ve used benadryl and unisom as sleep aids. I’m now using the goody’s powder (night-time) to assist every now and then. Very informative post!
    Sherelle recently posted…Winter Protective Styling Part 3: Wiggin OutMy Profile

    • Glad you liked Sherelle. Just remember, those are short term & I hope you were not commenting from the bed. That has an affect on your sleep pattern. The bedroom is for sleeping and intimacy only. I would at least try to adhere to that on your work week anyway.

  6. Joi, this blog was very informative. Thank you for posting this one. Most of the time, all I need is a pillow to fall asleep. However, I do need some help occasionally . You have given me some wonderful suggestions. The next time I dream about scary movies and can’t go back to sleep, I have some options now. Thank you, Dr. A. Joi Jones for all of the over the counter aides. Time to go shopping at Walgreens.

    • Yes you have the right shopping place, lol! I wish all I needed was a pillow! You are lucky! THanks for the sweet comment.

  7. GREAT post. Great, great, post.

    Sleep and I..we’re not great friends. 🙁 I struggle with trying to relax my mind and allow it to shut off and sleep at night – it got worse through university and getting older. achh!

    With the ones that build up tolerance quickly, I never take them unless I hit an extreeeemely bad streak of insomnia, and only as a last resort.
    I haven’t tried Melatonin yet, but I’ve definitely heard great results because of them!
    TorontoRunner recently posted…And then, this happened…My Profile

    • I think any blogger probably has a lot on their mind, it is hard to relax when you have a million thoughts running through your mind. I think the melatonin would be what I used if I had a regular sleep pattern but working over nights is just too awkward. I just use a Benadryl every now and then. I use that phrase lightly, I think it’s been over a year since I took one.

  8. This is really informative. I’m still nursing so I’m somewhat limited by options, but I used to have great success with Melatonin before pregnancy/nursing. And exercise and sun! Which I’m a bit deprived of lately.
    Tamara recently posted…Momsick.My Profile

  9. I generally get 5 hours of sleep max. So sad, but I’ve kind of taken on the motto, “I’ll sleep when I die.” Slowly but surely I’m giving in because I just can’t hang anymore. I don’t have a problem falling asleeep. I have more of a problem with online shopping and reading late at night.
    Andrea recently posted…A First, A Cure, and a BreakthroughMy Profile

  10. Thanks b/c I’ve been struggling recently and I’m not sure why…I’ve considered using an OTC sleep aide but I didn’t know if I should since I didn’t have other symptoms associated with the drug…but if its temporary, I guess it wouldn’t hurt

    • Hi Ramona! After the lifestyle modifications are attempted, it won’t hurt to try. Thx for commenting. Sweet Dreams..hopefully!

  11. As always, a fabulous and well needed post….I have problems sleeping and just this week took a benadryl tablet to help, and it worked like a charm. I have active brain disorder LOL which means I cannot “turn it off” I think this age of technology is helping us all to have sleepless nights!!

    I am making a life choice this year, to put down the phone and iPad by a certain time, and not become overwhelmed with anything, especially social media and the Blog, as I feel us bloggers are using the evening hours to catch up on all things “blogging” –

    Hope all is well!!

    Jeanine recently posted…{Weekly Feature} My Come on, Get Happy List!My Profile

    • Yes Jeanine, I would agree with you. Blogging took my social media engagement to a level like no other. I didn’t even check FB daily before. I think a technology curfew is an excellent idea.

  12. my sister came for a visit and noticed that i wasn’t getting as much sleep as i usually do (i could sleep all day if you let me!). she game me some of her melatonin and it really does help. i’ve only taken it twice, as i’ve just come to realize my sleep pattern is changing and how i rest today isn’t like i used to years ago.
    miss donna recently posted…keep the change | $20 budget – Jan. & Feb.My Profile

  13. OH EM GEE! Thank you for this post. Not even 5 minutes ago I was speaking with one of my co-workers about not being able to go to sleep at night. I am sooo frustrated about it. I greatly appreciate your advice. Obviously on the nights that my daughter sleeps in my bed I won’t try OTC remedies but the other nights, it’s on!

    • I know the feeling! It’s really bad when you have tears coming down because you want to go to sleep so bad. It only happens to me on my work week though. I hope that something here works for you. Thank you for commenting Veroncia.


  14. Just an addenum. If you find that you have trouble sleeping and/or don’t sleep well and find that you are fatigued even in the presence of sleep aids. Google Epworth Sleepiness Scale and take the survery. If you score higher than 7 discuss with your doctor getting a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea. Depending on the severity you need a dental appliance or a CPAP. Many take insomnia as just that but there can be a number of factors causing it.

    Great post Joi!
    Veronica @My Finessed Life recently posted…Spring Spring Forward: Outdoor ProjectsMy Profile

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