A number of dietary supplements are heavily promoted to improve sleep. The most popular supplement seems to be melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland. In low doses, it may have some benefit for temporary insomnia due to jet lag. Sleeping pills are available over the counter or by prescription.
Whether you’re treating yourself or using a drug prescribed by your doctor, you should follow several basic guidelines. First, use medication only as a backup to behavioral changes. And second, use the lowest dose that is effective for the shortest period of time. Many over the counter brands of medication are available. Most contain anti-histamines such as diphenhydramine. Most sleep experts discourage the use of these products, particularly long-term use of it. Side effects include daytime sleepiness, dry mouth, constipation, difficulty urinating, and memory problems or dementia.
Before taking any medication for insomnia, be sure to consult with your doctor or another credentialed physician. For many people, medication is a last resort after using things like stimulus control, relaxation techniques, and other cognitive behavioral therapy methods that have not otherwise been effective for improving sleep.