The 8 Best Sleep Aids of 2020

Experience better rest with these OTC buys

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks

Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid at Amazon

"Contains calming properties to ease anxiety."

Unisom Sleep Tablets at Walmart

"The non-habit forming aid increases drowsiness."

Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep Chewable Tablets at Amazon

"The tropical fruit-flavored chewable tablets contain melatonin."

Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets at Amazon

"Use these when your sleep schedule shifts."

Vicks ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep Aid at Amazon

"Contains the antihistamine Diphenhydramine HCI."

Dreamrite Natural Sleep Aid at Amazon

"Doesn’t lead to grogginess the next day."

Simply Sleep at Amazon

"Helps you fall and stay asleep."

Advil PM at Amazon

"A combination sleep aid and pain reliever."

You avoid caffeine, daytime naps, and screens before bed. And, you exercise regularly, but still can’t get a good night’s sleep. What gives? If falling and staying asleep is a struggle, despite your best efforts, you might be wondering if a sleep aid is right for you. After all, taking a nonprescription medication (aka, OTC sleep aid) when your sleep disturbances are temporary is a common practice for many people. While several products are advertised as a “natural sleep aid,” you still need to do your research and talk to your doctor before taking an OTC sleep aid. To get a jump start on your research, consider this list of best sleep aids curated by our experts. 

Our Top Picks

Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid

Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid
Courtesy of Amazon

Sounder sleep is just a capsule away with Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid. This vegan and non-GMO formula contains 2 milligrams of melatonin along with valerian root, GABA, tryptophan, chamomile, along with other herbal-based ingredients. The mix doesn’t just encourage shut-eye; it also contains calming properties to ease anxiety, so that you can have a good night’s rest even after a high-stress day.

Unisom Sleep Tablets

Unisom

 Walmart

Chronic insomnia should be treated by a doctor, but if you need immediate help to break your “can’t-sleep streak,” consider trying Unisom Sleep Tablets. The easy-to-swallow soft gels contain 35 mg of the antihistamine, doxylamine succinate, which the FDA considers GRAS/E or Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective. According to the manufacturer, Unisom increases drowsiness, allowing you to fall asleep faster.  

Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep Chewable Tablets

Work stress, a tall stack of bills, or relationship woes can keep you up at night. To the rescue: Stress-Relax Tranquil sleep aid. The tropical fruit-flavored chewable tablets contain melatonin along with the amino acids suntheanin and 5-HTP, which work together to boost relaxation and nix stress for more restful sleep. And because the formula is fast-acting, you’ll be off to dreamland in no time.

Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets

A smart tip for jet setters: Pack melatonin supplements, such as Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets. The supplement helps your body better adjust to the new time zone, allowing you to fall asleep come bedtime and avoid jet lag. But the sleep aid isn’t just for jet lag. You can also pop the tablets when you have occasional sleepiness or when your sleep schedule shifts and you need to get your body into sleep mode. It’s recommended that you start with a small 1 mg dose (take it 20 minutes before bedtime). You can slowly increase your dosage, but don’t exceed 10 mg.

Vicks ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep Aid

If you have trouble swallowing capsules and don’t like chewables, then go for a liquid sleep aid, like Vicks ZzzQuil. Not to be confused with NyQuil (which treats nighttime cold and flu symptoms), ZzzQuil contains the antihistamine Diphenhydramine HCI as well as melatonin, chamomile, and valerian to make it easier to drift off to sleep.

Dreamrite Natural Sleep Aid

For those who prefer all-natural sleep solutions, the Dreamrite Natural Sleep Aid is worth a try. The capsules contain a blend of herbs—including valerian root, chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower—in addition to tryptophan (an essential amino acid), magnesium, GABA (a neurotransmitter that helps balance mood and relax the mind), and more.

Simply Sleep

From the makers of Tylenol PM, Simply Sleep was designed to help you fall asleep quickly and is non-habit forming. Each caplet contains 25 mg of active ingredient diphenhydramine hydrochloride. With Simply Sleep, you won't experience the same grogginess that can occur with other sleep aids—you'll wake up feeling well-rested and ready to start your day.

Advil PM

This gentle, non-habit forming option from Advil combines the pain reliever Ibuprofen with sleep aid Diphenhydramine to help combat aches and pains while providing you with a better night's rest. You'll fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Make sure you do not take more than 2 pills in 24 hours and, as always, speak to your doctor before trying.

What to Look for in a Sleep Aid

Ingredients: The first thing to consider when browsing the aisles for a sleep aid is what’s on the label. Try to choose a product that has minimal ingredients. Also, do your research and make sure what they are using is safe and effective. Some common names to look out for include melatonin, valerian, diphenhydramine, and doxylamine succinate. 

Side Effects: Before you purchase a sleep aid, scan the label for any side effects. You can also ask a pharmacist or your doctor. Many sleep aids come with a warning to not drive, drink alcohol, operate heavy equipment, or take any recreational drugs while taking sleep aids. 

Precautions: Some common ingredients in sleep aids may be contraindicated with certain medical conditions. Also, taking a sleep aid along with prescription medication may pose a problem. If you are taking any medications, work with your doctor to find a safe sleep aid. 

What the Experts Say

“The melatonin hormone helps to control your natural cycle of sleep-wake. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements may be useful in treating jet lag or increasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep— although the effect is usually mild. Side effects may include headaches and sleepiness during the day.” Marina Yuabova, FNP, DNP a Family Nurse Practitioner

 

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