Over The Counter Sleep Aids

Submitted by Thiruvelan on Fri, 06/25/2010

Over-the-counter medications for the treatment of a sleep problem are those that can purchase without a prescription.

OTC Sleep aids

Over the counter sleep aids are non-habit forming; no allergic reactions and complex sleep related behaviors that can occur with prescribed sleep medication.

Because it is available over the counter, it does not mean to say that they are not having any side effects.


Most of these OTC medications are antihistamines; they work to inhibit the brain's neurotransmitter in order to depress the central nervous system. They work well but can cause some drowsiness the next day. They are safe enough to sell without a prescription. Antihistamines make many people feel groggy and tired rather than feel rested.

Commonly available Antihistamine’s medications are:

  • Acrivastine (Semprex-D),
  • Azatadine (Optimine),
  • Brompheniramine (Dimetapp, Bromphen, Dimetane, Nasahist, Lodrane 24, Brovex, Lodrane 12 Hours, Dimetapp Allergy),
  • Carbinoxamine (Palgic, Pediatex, Carboxine, Pediox),
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Allergy Relief, Chlorphen, ChlorTan),
  • Clemastine (Tavist, Allerhist-1, Tavist Allergy, Tavist-1),
  • Dexbrompheniramine (Sinadrin Plus, Drixoral Cold/Flu, Complete Sinus Relief, Drixoral Allergy Sinus),
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Benadryl Allergy, Diphen, Simply Sleep),
  • Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert, Wal-itin, Claritin 24-Hour Allergy),
  • Pheniramine (Theraflu Flu & Sore Throat, Theraflu Cold & Sore Throat),
  • Phenyltoloxamine (Digex NF),
  • Promethazine (Phenergan, Promethegan, Phenadoz, Phenazine 50),
  • Pyrilamine (Liqui-Minic Infant, Triactin, Triaminic Infant, Triaminic Pediatric),
  • Triprolidine (Zymine, Zymine XR, Tripohist)

Antihistamine medications provide temporary relief for runny/stuffy nose and other symptoms (such as ear congestion, watery/itchy eyes, itchy throat) caused by allergies, hay fever, the common cold, or other breathing problems.

Who should not use these Antihistamines medications?

  • Those who currently using a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)
  • Narrow-angle glaucoma
  • Breastfeeding

Possible side effects of antihistamines: daytime drowsiness/dizziness, lack of coordination, lack of mental concentration and alertness, mouth and throat dryness, Urine retention, Blurred vision, before driving a car or operating machinery, make sure the antihistamine does not affect the ability of concentrate.

Acetaminophen and antihistamine combination

Over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping aids such as Tylenol PM that is a combination of two medications acetaminophen and diphenhydramine (antihistamine). Other nighttime pain relievers such as Alka-Seltzer PM and Excedrin PM contain diphenhydramine. Acetaminophen helps to reduce fever and/or mild to moderate pain (such as headache, backache, aches/pains due to muscle strain, cold, or flu).

The combination of acetaminophen and antihistamine is useful to treat runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and pain or fever caused by allergies, the common cold, or the flu. This medication is also useful to treat nighttime pain and help support sleep.

There are many sleep-aid products available as over the counter medication on pharmacies and supermarkets. Many of these OTC products can contain a pain medication or a cold/cough medication; choose the most appropriate based on the health condition.

Acetaminophen and diphenhydramin combination

Brand names: Anacin P.M. Aspirin Free, Coricidin Night Time Cold Relief, Excedrin PM, Excedrin PM Caplet, Headache Relief PM, Legatrin PM, Mapap PM, Midol PM, Percogesic Extra Strength, Tylenol Cold Relief Caplet, Tylenol Cold Relief Nighttime, Tylenol Cold Relief Nighttime Caplet, Tylenol Extra Strength PM, Tylenol Extra Strength PM Vanilla Caplet, Tylenol PM, Tylenol Severe Allergy Caplet, Tylenol Sore Throat Nighttime, Unisom with Pain Relief, Bayer Select Max Strength Night Time Pain, Genapap PM, Sominex Pain Relief Formula, Tylenol Extra Strength PM Rapid Release Gelcaps, Excedrin PM Express Gels.

Acetaminophen and chlorpheniramine combination

Brand names: Coricidin, Coricidin HBP Cold & Flu

Acetaminophen and phenyltoloxamine combination

Brand names: Aceta-Gesic, Acuflex, Alpain, Apagesic, BeFlex, BP Poly-650, Dologesic, Flextra-650, Flextra-DS, Genasec, Hyflex-650, Hyflex-DS, Lagesic, Major-gesic, Percogesic, Phenagesic, Phenylgesic, Q Flex, Q-Gesic, Relagesic, RhinoFlex, RhinoFlex 650, Staflex, Vistra, Vitoxapap, Duogesic, Uni-Perr, Dolorex (obsolete), Staflex (obsolete).

Who should not use acetaminophen and antihistamine medications?

People with liver disease, glaucoma, kidney disease, enlarged prostate, or urination problems should not use this medication.

Possible side effects of Acetaminophen and antihistamine combination

  • Fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeats;
  • confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior;
  • severe dizziness, anxiety, restless feeling, or nervousness;
  • urinating less than usual or not at all, dark urine, clay-colored stools,
  • easy bruising or bleeding,
  • unusual weakness, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).