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Written by :Mark Hansen
Sleep aids for chronic insomnia

Top Sleep Aids For Chronic Insomnia

Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Millions of Americans suffer from sleep problems every year (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-are-facts-about-insomnia).  For many, this problem usually resolves itself within a few days. This condition is termed “acute insomnia”, and is usually caused by stress or short-term illness.

However, another type of insomnia known as “chronic” insomnia takes far longer to resolve. People with this condition have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for more than three nights a week for a period of three months or more. If left unchecked, chronic insomnia can result in long term sleep loss.

This can lead to physical and/or mental health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depressed mood (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/).

Chronic insomnia can be caused by prolonged stress as well as underlying medical conditions. This can make it harder to treat. If you suffer from this problem, there are many sleep aids that could help you get a good night’s rest.

How to treat chronic insomnia

Before we take a look at the top sleep aids for chronic insomnia, it’s important to note that many people are able to treat their condition with the help of behavioral therapy. This treatment approach aims to identify the thoughts and behaviors that cause or aggravate the problem, and replace them with ones that promote better sleep.(https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677).

This includes healthy sleep practices such as following a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine late in the day, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and using relaxation techniques before bed. People suffering from chronic insomnia should give behavioral therapy a try before turning to sleep medicine for treatment.

Using sleep aids to help with chronic insomnia

Sleep aids typically consist of over-the-counter supplements or natural herbs and compounds that help you fall asleep. They are distinct from prescription sleeping pills, which often create dependence and lead to health problems if they are used regularly.

You do not need a prescription to purchase sleep aids as they are generally non-addictive and carry few (if any) long-term health risks. However, using this sleep medicine frequently can lead to the user feeling groggy or unwell the next day (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-aids/art-20047860).

Some popular sleep aids for helping with chronic insomnia  are shown below.

Diphenhydramine

Diphenhydramine is an over-the-counter sleep aid that belongs to a class of medications known as antihistamines. It works by blocking histamines produced by your body during allergic reactions. This also has the effect of helping you relax and fall asleep.

Adults suffering from insomnia can take 50 mg of Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride once a day before bedtime. This sleeping aid also comes in the form of Diphenhydramine Citrate. Adults can take 76 mg of this medication once a day before bedtime (https://www.drugs.com/dosage/diphenhydramine.html).

Taking this medication may produce side effects such as drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, and stomach upset .(https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63760/sleep-aid-diphenhydramine-oral/details).

Some sleep aids containing Diphenhydramine are shown below:

Doxylamine

Doxylamine is another over-the-counter antihistamine used to treat insomnia.  Adults suffering from sleep problems can take 25 mg of Doxylamine medication should be taken 30 minutes before bedtime .

Doxylamine has interactions with many other drugs, including fentanyl, isocaroxazid, sodium oxybate, and valerian (https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_doxylamine_unisom/drugs-condition.htm). Talk to your doctor before taking this medication if you are using other medicines at the same time.

Some possible side effects of taking Doxylamine include dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision, and decreased sweating.

Some sleep aids containing Doxylamine are shown below:

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced naturally within the body. It is primarily released by the pineal gland. Its main function is to regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

People who are having trouble sleeping can take melatonin supplements regularly to help them fall asleep faster.  There is no standard dose for this over-the-counter sleep aid; however, the dose used in most studies ranges from 1 mg to 10 mg (https://www.healthline.com/health/melatonin-overdose).

If you are interested in trying this over-the-counter sleep aid, you should start by taking a small dose two hours before bed (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/melatonin-for-sleep-does-it-work). If this dosage does not prove to be effective, you can gradually increase your intake of melatonin over several days.

Unlike sleeping pills, melatonin does not create a dependence in the user. People taking this supplement are also unlikely to build up a tolerance to it (https://www.healthline.com/health/is-melatonin-addictive#addiction).

Side effects are uncommon with melatonin. However, if you take too much, you may experience nausea, headaches, dizziness, depressed mood, and stomach cramps (https://www.healthline.com/health/is-melatonin-addictive).

Some popular melatonin supplements are shown below:

Valerian Root

Valerian is a natural herb that originated in Asia and Europe. The root of this plant has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years.  It is believed to help with insomnia treatment, nervousness, trembling, and heart palpitations.

This herb contains valerenic acid that acts on the brain’s GABA receptors. It can calm down overexcited nerves and produces a mild sedative effect which helps users sleep (https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-valerian-88336).

People with sleep problems can take between 300 and 600 milligrams of valerian root one or two hours before bed (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0415/p1755.html) to help them sleep.

Taking valerian root may produce mild side effects such as headache, restlessness, dizziness, and stomach upset.

This natural remedy is a much safer alternative to taking sleeping pills. However, it does not produce a sedative effect as strong as the one produced by sleeping pills.

Some popular products containing valerian root are shown below:

Magnesium

Insomnia can be triggered and exacerbated by the body having a magnesium deficiency. Due to this reason, many people suffering from chronic insomnia treat their condition by taking magnesium supplements.

Magnesium helps the body sleep in many different ways. Studies have found that it can regulate the body’s production of melatonin (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12030424/). It may also increase GABA, which can have a calming effect (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18799816/).

There’s no standard dose for magnesium supplements; however, adults should be able to take up to 350 mg per day safely (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep).

Taking magnesium supplements may cause side effects, including cramps, nausea, and/or diarrhea.

Some popular magnesium supplements are shown below:

Frequently asked questions

Some frequently asked questions about sleep aids are shown below.

Q: What is the best medication for severe insomnia?

A: There is no “best” medication for severe insomnia. Some sleeping aids such as diphenhydramine and doxylamine can help you get a good night’s rest. You could also use natural sleep aids such as valerian root or chamomile to help you sleep at night.

Q: What is the best long term sleeping pill?

A: Sleeping pills are meant to treat short term sleep problems. Using them in the long term can be damaging to your health and lead to dependence. You should avoid taking sleeping pills and instead focus on using behavioral therapy and over-the-counter sleep aids like valerian root to help you sleep.

Q: Do sleep aids help insomnia

A: Sleep aids can help with insomnia. Taking melatonin supplements signals to your body that it is time to sleep. Other sleep aids such as magnesium regulate melatonin production and have a calming effect that induces sleep.

Q: What is the most powerful natural sleep aid?

A: No formal studies have been conducted to determine what the most powerful natural sleep aid is. The most popular natural remedies for insomnia are valerian root and chamomile. These can be taken together to increase their calming and sedative effects.

Summary

People who suffer from chronic insomnia need to address the root cause of their problem if they wish to get a good night’s rest. This condition can lead to mental and physical health problems if left untreated. One form of insomnia treatment involves behavioral therapy.  Insomnia sufferers can also take sleep aids to help them catch up on rest. Common sleep aids include:

  • Diphenhydramine
  • Doxylamine
  • Melatonin
  • Magnesium
  • Valerian root

People with insomnia should avoid taking sleeping pills for treatment because they can create a dependence and lead to health problems. Natural over-the-counter sleep aids are the best solution for treating chronic insomnia.

Leave a comment if you have any questions, or discuss your experience using sleep aids for insomnia.