The 6 Best Sleep Aids to Buy in 2018

Say hello to a sounder night’s sleep with these OTC buys

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If you spend nights staring at the ceiling or counting sheep, you know that good sleep can be hard to come by. But here’s some good news: It’s not out of reach. Over-the-counter sleep aids can get you back on a healthy sleep schedule. These chewables, tablets, and syrups typically contain melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle), valerian (a plant-based sleep aid), or either diphenhydramine or doxylamine succinate (the same antihistamines you’d find in allergy meds). People react to these ingredients differently, so it may take some trial and error to find the product that works best for you.

Keep in mind that it’s unclear whether long-term use of sleep aids is safe. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor if you rely on a sleep aid nightly. But for occasional insomnia or for help nodding off during a stressful week, sleep aids can work wonders. Read on for eight of the best buys.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid

Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid
Courtesy of Amazon

Sounder sleep is just a capsule away with Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid. The vegan and non-GMO formula contains melatonin and valerian root, 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.

One reviewer who suffered from poor sleep for eight years says that Driftoff Premium Sleep Aid was the only product that helped the issue, and more than 1,700 other reviewers agree that this is a five-star product. For best results, it’s recommended that users take two capsules with an 8-ounce glass of water 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime.

Best for Insomnia: Unisom Sleep Tablets

Chronic insomnia should be treated by a doctor, but if you need immediate help to break your can’t-sleep streak, try Unisom Sleep Tablets. The easy-to-swallow soft gels contain 35 mg of the antihistamine doxylamine succinate. The non-habit forming aid increases drowsiness, allowing you to fall asleep about 33 percent faster.

One user says that the Unisom Sleep Tablets have been a lifesaver for her pregnancy-induced insomnia, and many reviewers agree that they don’t wake up drowsy or groggy the next day. The Unisom Sleep Tablets come in an 80-count box to ensure many nights of solid sleep.

Best for Anxiety: 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.

One reviewer says that the Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep Chewable Tablets have helped calm him down and stopped his mind from spinning when lying in bed. Someone else says that the tablets even help him get better sleep when having panic attacks. Try the Stress-Relax chewables for your own anxiety, but remember to see a professional if you feel that your stress is too much to manage. 

Best for Jet Lag: Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets

A smart tip for jetsetters: 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.

People who use Natrol Melatonin say that the non-chalky berry flavor is tasty, making you want to pop the tablets. One reviewer who has both sleep apnea and insomnia says that the sleep aid has helped them fall asleep faster.

Best Liquid: 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.

While people have mixed feelings over the flavor, reviewers of Vicks ZzzQuil say that the sleep aid helps knock them quickly whenever they find it difficult to go to sleep and that they wake up feeling refreshed, not groggy. One person says that they find ZzzQuil even more effective than prescription sleep medications.

Best All-Natural: Dreamrite Natural Sleep Aid

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

Reviewers say that Dreamrite is effective at helping them fall asleep faster and that it thankfully doesn’t lead to grogginess the next day. One person even raves that her first time using the natural sleep aid gave her the best night’s sleep she’d had in years. 

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