Best OTC sleeping pill?
September 20, 2012 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Is there a BEST over-the-counter sleeping pill or do I just need to find the one that is best for me? Or are they all the same?

Context, if it matters, is needing sleep on a stressful business trip following five months of sleep deprivation caused by the world's cutest baby. (I'm the father, and I know better than to discuss this with the mother, who is worse off than me and can't take sleeping pills.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
There is never, ever, ever a one size fits all cure for any problem. Everyone's body chemistry and metabolism works in ways that will make one set of pills highly effective and others not effective at all. It's just one of those crummy things about idiosyncratic dispositions.

You might find luck with valerian, or taking turns sleeping somewhere other than your house. Any chance of sleeping at a hotel here and there? I know a few couples who did this and it helped a lot.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:31 AM on September 20, 2012

For me: Doxylamine succinate
posted by aramaic at 8:32 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unisom/Doxylamine Succinate worked for me, with the side effect that it makes me groggy in the morning.

I have tried melatonin with intermittent success. It doesn't guarantee sleep for me.

Sometimes benadryl works for me. (The active ingredient in benedryl is also the sleep-aid in n-quil/zzz-quil)
posted by royalsong at 8:32 AM on September 20, 2012

Any chance of sleeping at a hotel here and there?

He's trying to sleep on a business trip. I assume he is already in a hotel.
posted by amro at 8:33 AM on September 20, 2012

And to answer: Benadryl works for me.
posted by amro at 8:34 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

OTC sleeping pills don't do much for me other than make me groggy and nightmare-y. An off-label double dose of NyQuil works a lot better, tbh. I assume you are already on the business trip and thus cannot ask your regular GP for a week's worth of Rx sleeping pills?
posted by elizardbits at 8:37 AM on September 20, 2012

Nyquil makes a sleeping pill, without the cold/flu medicine stuff. It definitely put me to sleep but I have to be pretty careful about my timing when I take it. Like, if I have to work super early, I don't want to take it because I feel kinda weird the next morning, like I shouldn't be driving.
posted by smirkyfodder at 8:38 AM on September 20, 2012

For me: sublingual melatonin (1 - 3 mg).
(Also, I realize you're anon but this "world's cutest baby" business sans pictures is just cruel.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:40 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I use the generic benadryl or diphenhydramine and it generally lets me sleep about 5 or 6 hours and then I'm wide awake, no hangover. Obviously, it might not work as well for you.
posted by mareli at 8:43 AM on September 20, 2012

Most over the counter sleeping pills are antihistamines, either diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or Doxylamine (which is found in NyQuil and some formulations of Unisom). They work the same way, but some people prefer one over the other. You really need to try them out and see which one works best for you.
posted by lexicakes at 8:45 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have insomnia that I manage with 3mg of time-released melatonin, but if I REALLY want to make sure that I get a good night's sleep and not wake up groggy I take a melatonin, a tryptophan capsule, and an Advil PM. The melatonin and tryptophan make sure I'm really sleepy and the Advil PM help keeps me asleep. If I take more than one Advil PM (with or without the other stuff) I'm groggy in the morning and I hate that.
posted by Kimberly at 8:49 AM on September 20, 2012

I second the use of melatonin and Advil PM.
posted by Coffee Bean at 8:52 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Half a Unisom (doxylamine not diphenhydramine) gets me to sleep and keeps me lightly asleep without making it too hard to wake up. I am a large person so I don't think it's a dosage/weight issue, but an entire Unisom makes me feel underwater for a good part of the next day. Sometimes I even try to cut it into thirds.

I don't believe that melatonin is a sleeping pill or that it is meant to be used on an ongoing basis, but might be useful for 1-3 nights if you're going to be changing time zones (or drastically changing longitude, which messes me up as much as changing time zones because of daylight length) and adding a layer of jet lag to your exhaustion. Try to find it in microgram doses rather than milligrams, or take a sliver of the common 3mg pill.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:58 AM on September 20, 2012

This is extremely illicit advice, but an alcoholic drink will go a long way to make OTC sleeping pills more effective.
posted by scose at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2012

I take 2 or 3 500mg Tryptophan pills. I find the stuff labeled 'sleeping pills' are ineffective. I do have decent luck with Melatonin, but a large dose of Tryptophan just knocks me out.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:01 AM on September 20, 2012

Tylenol PM for me. Sometimes washed down with a beer. A cold beer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:06 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does your hotel have a shitty little exercise room or indoor pool
posted by MangyCarface at 9:10 AM on September 20, 2012

5mg melatonin plus just half of one benadryl puts me to sleep with less grogginess than a full dose of benadryl.
then again, last night I dreamed about a giant frog. ymmv
posted by changeling at 9:12 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be careful with alcohol and tylenol/acetaminophen; the combination is one of the leading causes of liver failure.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:13 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

FWIW, Benadryl-type things work really well for me, but then give me total insomnia the next night.
posted by jeather at 9:13 AM on September 20, 2012

I think melatonin is pretty safe to take regularly. On our pediatrician's advice, we gave it to my son nightly while he was on Adderall for ADD.

My go to sleep aid is plain old Benadryl. Advil PM and Tylenol PM are a combination of the pain relief aid + Benadryl, and might be more helpful if you have any kind of nagging aches and pains that make getting comfortable for sleep a problem.

My other semi-scientific sleep aid is lying down in bed without blankets or covers until I'm super chilly, and only then getting under the blankets. Something about being chilled and then getting cozy warm helps me just drift on off.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:14 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing melatonin. Start at a higher dosage and then drop down. I have found that I need it in cycles. So once you are sleeping well again try coming off of it occasionally. Then if you start having trouble sleeping again go back to it for a bit.
posted by UMDirector at 9:18 AM on September 20, 2012

Don't try this for the first time on a business trip (if you need to stay sharp) - the wrong one can leave you kind of foggy the next day. That said, trial and error here, and sometimes even with that I have to switch it up.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:27 AM on September 20, 2012

Valerian works wonders for me.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:33 AM on September 20, 2012

There's no one-size-fits-all best. Efficacy and side-effects can vary per person. Most soporifics I've tried do nothing for me; zolpidem (ambien) works well and without ill effects, but you can google up scary ambien stories from people for whom it does have bad side-effects.

mrs. tater's warning is a good one -- for some people, some soporifics will leave them wiped out the following day.
posted by Zed at 9:46 AM on September 20, 2012

I'd say, none of the above (except maybe melatonin, or ZMA) due to the deleterious effects they can have on sleep architecture. What makes you sleepy won't necessarily make you sleep. Here's a guide written for primary care providers.
posted by availablelight at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

My body adapts to each kind of pill after a while, so I rotate. I'm currently using a dissolvable melatonin and it works nicely.
posted by tacodave at 4:16 PM on September 20, 2012

I was going to say the same thing as availablelight: the common OTC sleep aids, diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate, screw up your sleep architecture. So does alcohol. So you get some sleep, but not the most restful kind of sleep.

Is there a reason you have specified OTC sleep aids, other than the convenience of buying OTC? If you can possibly make time for a visit to your doctor's office, you could ask for a prescription. Modern prescription sleep aids (non-benzos) do not interfere with sleep architecture.
posted by Orinda at 5:37 PM on September 20, 2012

I don't know if it is OTC but due to a medical condition I once had to take Hydrozine.

Side effects: good sleep, nice dreams....
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:04 PM on September 20, 2012

I have your answer - Alteril - combo of every natural sleep remedy that exists. If you don't want to that for some odd reason, try liquid Melatonin. Prepare for weird vivid dreams.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2012

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