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Sleep Aid 101: From Melatonin to Antihistamines

Quality sleep is vital for overall well-being, yet many individuals find themselves tossing and turning at night, searching for effective sleep assistance.

Sleep hygiene is not always accessible, so it is important to also consider sleeping aids, from natural supplements to over-the-counter medications, a variety of options are available to promote restful sleep.

In this Sleep Aid 101 guide, we'll explore popular sleep aids, how they work, and what you should consider before using them.

Herbal Remedies: Valerian Root and Chamomile

Some common herbal remedies include Valerian root and Chamomile.

How do herbal remedies work?

Herbs like valerian root and chamomile have long been cherished for their calming and sedative properties. Valerian root enhances the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA, inducing a sense of tranquillity, while chamomile's antioxidants contribute to relaxation. It has also been found to be helpful with anxiety.

Chamomile is an ancient herbal medicine which has been used to help with insomnia, inflammation, sickness and more. Different herbal remedies have different healing or benefits on the body, so it is important to research these herbs before you use them.


Herbal remedies are generally safer to consume in recommended amounts, and are often found in branded sleeping aids. As such, they are easy to find, and although you can consult a health professional, they are relatively safe to experiment with and see what works best for you. One precaution is that herbal remedies typically require regular use for maximum effectiveness.

Other considerations are to understand the mild side effects that may occur, that dosage is unclear and the herbal supplement industry is not as closely monitored the same way medications are.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Sleep Aids: Antihistamines

There are many types of OTC antihistamines; some common ones found in sleep aids include Diphenhydramine and Doxylamine.

How do they work?

OTC sleep aids tend to be sedatives through affecting the central nervous system. Different antihistamines and sleep aids have different effects on the body.


OTC sleep aids are generally intended for short-term use; they also are known to cause daytime drowsiness and dependency. OTC sleep aids should also only be considered with a consultation with a healthcare professional.

Other common symptoms include: feeling sleepy, dizzy or unsteady on your feet, dry mouth.

Prescription Medications

There are many prescription sleep medications such as melatonin, clonazepam, zolpidem and Eszopiclone.

How do they work?

Prescription sleep medications, such as zolpidem and eszopiclone, are designed for more severe cases of insomnia. These medications act on specific receptors in the brain to induce sleep and are generally reserved for short-term use due to the risk of dependence.

Different prescription medications have different use cases and effects on the body. E.g, melatonin prescription simply increases the amount of melatonin production in the body, and important hormone for sleep quality and indicating to your body that it is time to sleep.


Only consider prescription medications under the guidance of a healthcare professional; they have a strong risk of dependence and withdrawal symptoms so are typically only used for the short term.

Some other side effects include headache, dry mouth, parasomnias, complex behaviours, gastrointestinal upset, residual effects.


Choosing the right sleep aid depends on individual preferences, health considerations, and the specific nature of sleep difficulties. Remember, the goal is not just to fall asleep but to achieve restorative, quality sleep.

Experiment with different options, and prioritise lifestyle changes that support a healthy sleep routine.

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