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The Difference Between Melatonin and Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

When you want to get better sleep – and more of it – you have two non-prescription options. You can treat your insomnia with natural supplements or select over-the-counter medications. Whatever solution you choose, keep in mind that these treatments may cause side effects or cause drug interactions. ... Read More

The Difference Between Melatonin and Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

When you want to get better sleep – and more of it – you have two non-prescription options. You can treat your insomnia with natural supplements or select over-the-counter medications. Whatever solution you choose, keep in mind that these treatments may cause side effects or cause drug interactions.

Over-The-Counter Drugs

The active ingredient in most of these products is antihistamine. More specifically – and most commonly – diphenhydramine or doxylamine succinate are responsible for making you feel drowsy. These medicines may be used alone or combined with additional ingredients to help you fall asleep.

Although these medicines are effective in the short term, you may develop a dependency on the drugs or tolerance for them. To avoid problems with withdrawal or worsened symptoms of insomnia, doctors recommend limiting usage to two weeks at most.

In addition, these drugs may further affect how you function in the daytime. Sedative antihistamines may create a “hangover” when you wake up, so you could feel groggy, unfocused and even nauseous. The feeling isn’t easy to shake, either; the day after, you’re advised to avoid activities requiring alertness, such as driving and operating machinery.

Medication and condition interactions pose another risk. To avoid harmful consequences, you should talk about your insomnia with your doctor and discuss any other medications you may be taking.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally generates at night. Your natural hormone levels start to rise in the evening and reach their highest with darkness. From there, they stay at a plateau that tapers off in the morning.

Your body generates melatonin to control your sleep cycle, and a supplement takes advantage of this organic pattern. What can it be used for?

  • Establishing a consistent sleep-wake pattern.
  • Supplementing the body’s decreased melatonin production, which may result from aging.
  • Treating jet lag and time-difference sleep issues.
  • Reducing the time it takes to fall asleep.

Although melatonin occurs naturally in your body, taking a supplement may still involve risks. For instance, contaminants may be present in some melatonin supplements, so consumers are advised to choose a brand that is lab-made.

Additionally, daytime drowsiness is still a concern, and patients are recommended to avoid driving and operating machinery four to five hours after taking it. Medication interactions are also possible, so talk with your doctor before using a melatonin supplement.

As with over-the-counter medications, melatonin should not be used as a long-term solution for insomnia. If you struggle with sleeplessness, consult your doctor to see what treatment may be right for you.