Insomnia symptoms occur in up to 50% of the adult population. Risk factors that may increase your chances of developing insomnia symptoms are increasing age, shift work, and numerous comorbid disorders. If you’re having trouble sleeping, the first step to take is to improve your sleep routine.

Tips to optimize sleep hygiene:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule
  • Maintain a healthy diet and regular daytime exercise
  • Avoid sleeping with noise or flashing light (e.g. television)
  • Avoid daytime naps, caffeine, nicotine, or other stimulants
  • Avoid alcohol immediately prior to bedtime

After optimizing your sleep hygiene, there are several over the counter (OTC) options that can be used if insomnia symptoms persist. The most common options are as follows:

Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body but can also be taken as an OTC medication. Melatonin has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Doses from 1-10 mg at bedtime are recommended.
Valerian Valerian is a natural product that has been shown to be likely safe and possibly effective in improving insomnia symptoms in the adult population. The dose with greatest benefit is 400-900 mg taken up to two hours before bed.
 

Doxylamine (Unisom SleepTabs)

Doxylamine is an antihistamine that is used to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. The typical dose is 25 mg once daily at bedtime; however, if sleeplessness persists for more than 2 weeks, you should stop use and contact your doctor.
Diphenhydramine (Tylenol PM, Aleve PM, Benadryl, NyQuil etc.) Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that is used to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. The typical dose is 25-50 mg once daily at bedtime; however, if sleeplessness persists for more than 2 weeks, you should stop use and contact your doctor.

Before using any sleep aid, you should first ask your doctor is you have any of the following conditions: a breathing problem (COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea), glaucoma, or difficulty urinating due to enlarged prostate. Pregnant patients should also ask a doctor before starting any OTC sleep aid.

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