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Should I Take Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids and Supplements?

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Busy schedule got you feeling drowsy all the time? We asked one of the county’s foremost experts in catching Zs, director of The Sleep Center at White Plains Hospital Dr. Fulvia Milite, for her take on over-the-counter sleep aids and supplements.

What sleep aids are most commonly recommended?

The most commonly recommended sleep aid is melatonin, and there has been some research on its effectiveness. A decrease in the time to fall asleep has been found with a 2-milligram prolonged-release melatonin. Use of antihistamines is not recommended because of the lack of evidence of clear improvement and the possible problems from residual dizziness or drowsiness that they may cause. Tryptophan and valerian root have not shown significant improvement in the few studies evaluating them, but no harm has been shown either.

Do you recommend any over-the-counter medicines?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not officially recommend any over-the-counter sleep aid, mostly because of the paucity of evidence available. I recommend chamomile tea at bedtime, though there is no proven benefit, and melatonin as well, for the reasons stated above. Magnesium, vitamin B6, and calcium supplements can be considered, as well.

Should someone contact their doctor if the above aids are not effectively treating their condition?

A patient should consider seeing a sleep physician if they are having trouble sleeping despite following good sleep-hygiene rules. Those include following a regular schedule, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and no TV or electronics in bed. It is especially important to consider a sleep medicine consult if the patient is also snoring, arousing multiple times per night, experiencing non-refreshing sleep, or feeling excessive sleepiness.

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