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How to Treat Insomnia with Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

Learn how to treat insomnia with over-the-counter sleep aids from sleep specialist Priyanka Yadav, D.O. in this Howcast video.


So there are many over-the-counter products that are used to help treat insomnia and help with sleep. A lot of these are H1 antagonists and what these class of medications do is that they work on histamine. They block it and histamine is a weight promoting agent. So by blocking it, they're inducing sedation. These are commonly known as Unisom or Sleep EZ, for example.

Now, there are other medications such as melatonin which is also used to help treat insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally found in our body. We secrete it at bedtime and darkness is what helps the secretion of melatonin. So as we get older sometimes our production of melatonin will decrease and supplemental melatonin will help set our circadian rhythm and help with sleep onset.

Some other non-medications that are used to help with insomnia are alcohol and alcohol is commonly used to help with sleep onset. What people don't realize is that it will cause insomnia in the second half of the night by causing fragmentation of your sleep.

So what I do tell patients is to avoid nonprescription products, such as caffeine, that may induce insomnia. Caffeine should be avoided about six hours prior to bedtime because it lasts in your system for about six hours and it fights the chemicals that help with sleep onset.

So there are many over-the-counter products that help with insomnia but if you're needing to use these over a long period of time you should discuss with your doctor what might be the cause of your insomnia.

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