9 best sleeping pills for 2021


Problems falling asleep or sleeping can be very frustrating. When this happens chronically, it is called insomnia . If you find that you cannot sleep, you may be looking for a sleeping pill solution.

What sleeping pills and prescription drugs can you take when you can't sleep? Are there treatment options at home? When should you see a doctor? Learn about some of the treatments that can help you fall asleep, including the role of a therapy for insomnia called CBTI.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin


Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and affects almost everyone at some point in their lives. It can be transient and associated with an identifiable stressor, in which case it is called acute insomnia . For example, trouble sleeping the night before a major test .

However, these difficulties can also turn into a chronic disease that can be very upsetting for you. Chronic insomnia occurs at least three nights a week and lasts for at least three months. In any case, you may be interested in learning how to finally fall asleep, including taking sleeping pills.

Home remedies for sleep

Many people with insomnia wait for a quick fix. It would be ideal if you could do something or just have something to help you fall asleep. These desired options can range from sleeping pills that you can take, foods that you can eat, or beverages that you can drink.


Both now and in the past, people have consumed small amounts of alcohol to sleep. These "nightcaps" (a reference to helmets worn during sleep to minimize heat loss) are routine for some people before bedtime .

However, we now realize that alcohol is not an effective sleep aid. As a brain depressant, it can cause drowsiness due to elevated adenosine levels. However, the resulting dream is fragmented and disturbed. Suppresses REM sleep, characterized by vivid dreams.

Sleep is ultimately not refreshing and can lead to symptoms of poor sleep . In addition, alcohol consumption can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea due to the relaxation of the muscles of the airways.

Drinking alcoholic beverages to improve sleep is not recommended .

Other food and drinks

You can raid the kitchen looking for other things to help you sleep. Maybe a glass of warm milk? How about a turkey sandwich that contains a sleep-promoting chemical called tryptophan? Even a soothing glass of tea "to sleep" can be tempting.

You should be careful if you decide to eat or drink something to help you sleep. As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid any food that contains stimulant caffeine. Therefore, avoid coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. Also, other options may be undesirable.

You may not want to eat large, spicy foods or tomato products as it can trigger heartburn at night. Eating food triggers the release of insulin, which can help you stay awake.

There are foods that can be calming and this can lead to a more favorable sleep state. In general, though, snacking before bed is unlikely to help you get a good night's sleep.

There are products that can be more effective. Some foods, like turkey, contain tryptophan. When you eat it, your body converts it into a neurotransmitter called serotonin. The higher levels of serotonin in your brain, in turn, can make you sleepy.

There are also foods (like tart cherries) that contain low doses of melatonin, a hormone that plays an important role in regulating sleep times called the circadian rhythm . However, the melatonin found in food is so low that you will have to eat most of the food to see any effect.

The effects of sleep-promoting foods and drinks are minor and unlikely to significantly improve your ability to sleep. Also, drinking alcohol or caffeine will interrupt your sleep. You can also develop heartburn at night if you eat the wrong food before bed.

Over-the-counter sleeping pills

Many people turn to sleeping pills to ease the transition to sleep. If you can't sleep, you can start by raiding your first aid kit or visiting the shelf at your local pharmacy. Many products aim to provide immediate relief from sleep problems, but unfortunately, few can deliver on their promises.


Over-the-counter sleeping pills generally cause drowsiness as a side effect. For example, drugs that contain the brand name "PM" often have diphenhydramine as an active ingredient. The same goes for the product marketed as ZzzQuil .

Benadryl (generically known as diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that is used to treat allergies and can cause drowsiness. These medications are habit-forming, do not promote normal sleep, and are not recommended as a treatment for persistent insomnia .


Another over-the-counter medicine is the natural hormone melatonin. This can be helpful if your insomnia is caused by a change in your circadian rhythm.

It is important to follow the directions for using melatonin. It should not be taken just before bed to treat a circadian problem, for example, as its time of action is delayed and it will not start working within a few hours .

Prescription sleeping pills

If your insomnia persists despite taking over-the-counter medications, you can talk to your doctor about prescription sleeping pills. There are two main classes of sleeping pills: those that belong to the family of drugs called benzodiazepines and those that do not. Prescription pills include:

  • Ambien (zolpidem) : This widely prescribed benzodiazepine receptor agonist enhances the action of GABA in the brain. This shortens the average time to fall asleep by 5-12 minutes and increases total sleep time by 29 minutes. It can be due to a temporary loss of memory and sleep-related behaviors.
  • Belsomra (Suvorexant) : blocks the wakefulness signal created by a chemical in the brain called orexin (or hypocretin). It shortens the average time to fall asleep by 8 minutes and reduces the average time awake at night between 16 and 28 minutes.
  • Evrodin, Prosom (estazolam) – This is a benzodiazepine drug that enhances GABA. There is a higher incidence of abuse and an increased risk of falls, delirium, and long-term memory problems. The risk of overdose and withdrawal may also be higher.
  • Chalcion (triazolam) : Like estazolam, it is a benzodiazepine drug. It has the same risk and may not be the best option to use as a sleeping pill.
  • Intermezzo (zolpidem) – Similar to Ambien in that it contains the same active ingredient but with a shorter half-life, this drug can be taken in the middle of the night upon waking.
  • Lunesta (esopiclone) : Another drug that acts as a benzodiazepine receptor agonist, shortens the mean time to fall asleep by 14 minutes and increases total sleep time by 28-57 minutes. A unique side effect is a metallic (copper) taste in the mouth.
  • Restoril (temazepam) : Also a benzodiazepine drug, it has the same risk of falls, delirium, long-term memory problems, and the potential for overdose and withdrawal.
  • Roserem (Ramelteon) : This drug uniquely enhances the effects of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone for the brain. This reduces the average time to fall asleep by 9 minutes.
  • Silenor (doxepin) : an antidepressant that may slightly improve sleep.
  • Sonata (Zaleplon) : Reduces the average time to fall asleep by 10 minutes. Unfortunately, it is metabolized quickly and can disappear within 4 hours. However, this can make it attractive for awakenings that occur during the night.
  • Trazodone : Another ancient antidepressant, shortens the average time to fall asleep by 10 minutes and the average time to wake up at night by 8 minutes. It is widely used in the elderly, but has not been widely studied for possible side effects.

As you can see, there are many options. Each sleeping pill has slightly different side effects and can be helpful in different situations. To clarify which medication is best for your situation, you should discuss these options with your doctor.

Sleeping pills should not be used in combination without medical supervision and should not be taken with alcohol. This increases the risk of overdose, respiratory depression, and death.

How to avoid sleeping pills

For some people, sleeping pills are not the best option. Some people are taking other medications that can interact with them. If you are pregnant, you should not take anything that could harm your baby.

Others are concerned about the possibility of addiction or dependence on sleeping pills. Also, some people don't like the side effects of sleeping pills.

Regardless of the reason you decide not to take sleeping pills, thankfully, you have other ways to deal with your insomnia. If you don't want to drink anything to sleep, you can work to change your sleeping habits.

Tips for improving sleep hygiene can make your sleep easier. As part of this, you should go to bed and wake up regularly to strengthen your natural circadian rhythm.

You should avoid naps, as this can reduce your body's natural desire to sleep (called a sleep drive). It is also important to minimize the time you spend awake in bed, a technique called stimulus control .

Additionally, there are alternatives to insomnia treatments such as relaxation , biofeedback, and aromatherapy. You can consult a psychologist and learn how to deal with stress and negative feelings that can be associated with insomnia.

You can fall asleep more easily with guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and other treatments. Also, using familiar relaxing aromatherapy scents can help you fall asleep .

When should you contact a healthcare provider?

Although for insomnia, you can immediately take something to help you fall asleep, there may not be immediate relief. If insomnia persists, you may need more help.

If you can identify the cause of your insomnia and hope it goes away, you can decide to endure it. For example, if you are studying for a test and have trouble sleeping, you will likely improve when you pass the test.

Sometimes the problem of insomnia becomes constant or recurring. If difficulty falling asleep or falling asleep is interfering with your life, you may want to do something about it.

If you are feeling depressed or even suicidal due to insomnia, you should definitely seek help.

You can start by talking to your PCP about your concerns. If you need more qualified help, you may be referred to a sleep specialist. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common cause of persistent insomnia, especially when associated with awakening, and this may require its own treatment.

You can benefit from targeted change through the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) program, delivered through a book, online course, workshop or class, or by meeting with a psychologist.

Get the word of drug information

Many people with insomnia can learn to sleep normally without sleeping pills. In some cases, it is necessary to identify the underlying sleep disorder that may be contributing to this, such as sleep apnea.

Even if insomnia lasts for decades, it can be resolved with the guidance of a sleep medicine specialist. Get the help you need, and feel free to go beyond the prescription pills and medications that are so often offered primarily as a cure for insomnia.

Frequently asked questions

  • Some natural sleeping pills that can be considered relatively safe for adults in low doses and with strict adherence to instructions include melatonin, magnesium, valerian, tryptophan, passionflower, chamomile, ginkgo biloba, CBD, and lavender. However, if you decide to try a natural sleep remedy, be sure to do your research and speak with your doctor first.

  • Insomnia is very common, affecting 33-50% of American adults.

  • Short-term insomnia and chronic insomnia are caused by a number of reasons, including stress, mental health problems, chronic pain, chronic illnesses, digestive disorders, hormonal fluctuations, medications, neurological conditions, and other sleep disorders.

  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep can eventually lead to weight gain and obesity, diabetes, traffic accidents, falls, high blood pressure, and mood disorders.

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