Intensive research has shown that sleep loss, even if it is just for a few hours in a day can substantially do damage to your health and lessen your productivity. Medically termed as insomnia, lack of sleep can undesirably impact your daily life and normal functioning of the critical organs of your body.
On the other hand, getting ample sleep gives you loads of benefits. Sleeping anywhere between seven or nine hours every night helps you eradicate stress, repairs any damage in your body, regenerate your energy levels, and recover or ward off diseases.
Sleep deprivation and insomnia can result in huge problems for you physically, emotionally and mentally. It also has knock-on effects. Your work and family life can suffer as a result of sleep loss. Not only that, but it also has an impact on your earnings with studies showing that it leads to more than $400 billion in lost earnings every year in the United States.
But what happens if you can’t fall asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling asleep again? This is where having a reliable sleep aid comes into play.
In this article, we’ll discuss the virtues of Unisom vs ZzzQuil. Before we get to each product, let’s first take a brief glance into what sleep aids are and what they can do for you.
Table of Contents
Find what you’re looking for fast using these links:
- What Can Sleep Aids Do For You?
- What is Unisom?
- What is ZzzQuil?
- What Are Other Sleep Aids You Can Try?
What Can Sleep Aids Do For You?
Getting those sought-after hours of sleep at night feels a lot harder to attain when you’ve had caffeine late in the day or your mind can’t stop going over the important presentation that you have to make tomorrow. It’s enough to make anyone want to find relief in some over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills.
Nonprescription medicines like ZzzQuil and Unisom and supplements like melatonin and valerian can help stimulate your brain into a restful mood, but just because you don’t need a doctor’s note does not at all mean they’re always the suitable choice. Sleep aids can interact with other drugs you take, and lingering effects can have serious effects on your health.
Are OTC Sleep Aids Harmless to Take?
In most cases, they are. However, the hangover effect is something that you have to be wary of. Any time you take anything sedating there’s the chance you’re going to feel groggy the next morning. Because this hangover effect can raise the risk for accidents, it is strongly advised that you don’t use anything that impacts your alertness in the morning especially if you are tasked with driving the kids to school in the morning.
Taking the lowest recommended dose before a full night’s sleep can help prevent grogginess the very next day. As always, it is advised that you talk to a doctor first if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have liver problems, but everyone should follow these precautions with OTC sleep aids:
- Ask your doctor if sleep aids interact with any medications you’re taking.
- Never combine sleep aids with alcohol, as it can increase the sedative effect.
- Begin with using a low dose, especially with older adults, to avoid excessive drowsiness.
- Do NOT give children sleep aids, unless it is given the green light by a pediatrician.
- OTC sleep aids aren’t habit-forming in the sense that your body won’t become physically dependent on them, but they’re also not made for regular, long-term use. Doing so can result in you experiencing side effects such as persistent drowsiness, confusion, memory problems, dry mouth, and urinary issues.
If you’re experiencing chronic insomnia, you should consult with your primary care provider to find out if it’s a sign of something that is more serious. Sleep apnea, mood disorders, and thyroid problems can all cause sleeplessness.
What is a Good OTC Sleep Aid?
Most OTC sleep aids induce sleep make use of antihistamines, but you’ll also find that popular supplements such as melatonin and valerian in the pharmacy aisles. Here is some pertinent information about these:
Common sleep meds like Zzzquil and Unisom contain antihistamines like diphenhydramine and doxylamine as the active ingredients. In the doses that are available over the counter, antihistamines are relatively safe and they work for a lot of people. They antagonize the alerting chemical called histamine in one particular region of the brain, and by antagonizing histamine, it makes people sleepy.
While these may make you feel drowsy, they can also have some side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and memory or cognition problems and they’re not made for long-term use. If you suffer from restless leg syndrome, antihistamines can even make symptoms worse, so talk to your doctor before using any.
Here’s a note to bear in mind when it comes to antihistamines: Skip antihistamine meds that also include ibuprofen (Advil PM) or acetaminophen (Tylenol PM) unless you’re experiencing aches and pains. It’s better to take pills with only the active ingredients you need.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in our brains every day, regulating wakefulness as levels rise at night time and steadily go down early in the morning. In the U.S., you can actually buy melatonin as a supplement, but it’s available as prescription-only medication in other parts of the world.
The hormone has two effects on the brain: the first is a weak sleep-inducing effect that only some people respond to. The second is what’s called a chronotropic effect.
What that means is melatonin can shift your sleep-brain rhythm based on when you take it. Compared to a variety of medications used for insomnia, melatonin is a very safe alternative. It’s very popular even among physicians, who start patients with insomnia with melatonin because of its good safety profile.
Valerian is a flowering herb that is grown in Eurasia with medicinal uses dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. These days, you’ll find its dried roots and stems as a usual ingredient in teas or capsules marketed as sleep aids. Out of the natural or herbal supplements available — including chamomile and lavender — valerian has the most studies that support its sleep-inducing effects.
Valerian root has been used for a very long time not just for insomnia but also nervousness and headaches. Some research shows that this plant may have possible sedative and anxiety-reducing effects by raising the neurotransmitter GABA. This GABA is an inhibitory chemical that makes the brain less active, and in sleep we all want our brains to be less active. So by increasing GABA, valerian promotes sleep and also helps nervousness.
What Else Can You Try?
While it’s alright to take an OTC sleep medicine when you suspect that “decaf” coffee wasn’t really all decaf, the ideal way to treat insomnia, in the long run, is to tackle the underlying problems.
One solid piece of advice is to train your brain to associate the bed with sleep. Do nothing in bed other than sleeping and intimate activities. That means no reading in bed, no playing with the phone in bed, and no laying in bed for hours not sleeping.
Don’t underestimate other lifestyle remedies either. Try integrating these tips into your normal, everyday routine and you might not have to hit up the medicine cabinet at all:
Establish a regular sleep schedule
Go to bed and wake up at relatively the same time every day. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bed.
Daily physical activity at least several hours before bed can promote better sleep later on.
Use a white noise machine:
Patients have reported good success with white noise therapy.
Put down your phone:
The artificial light late at night can interfere with melatonin production.
Wear blue-light glasses:
They help block the rays that mess with your sleep hormones.
Some studies suggest medication may improve sleep.
Practice mind-body therapies like tai chi and yoga:
They can help fight stress and enhance sleep.
Now that we have discussed what sleep aids are, let’s dive in deep and take a look at what Unisom is.
What is Unisom?
Unisom or Doxylamine Succinate is an antihistamine that is used to relieve symptoms of allergy, hay fever, and the common cold. This medication works by blocking specific natural substances that your body generates. This effect helps to relieve allergy/cold symptoms like watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing.
Do not use this product to treat cold symptoms in children younger than six years unless directed by the doctor. In addition, do not give the 25-milligram tablets to children younger than 12 years, unless, of course, instructed by the doctor.
These products do not cure or reduce the length of the common cold and may cause dire side effects. To lessen the risk for serious side effects, carefully follow all dosage directions. Do not use this product to make a child sleepy. Do not give other cough-and-cold medication that might contain the same or similar ingredients.
How to Use Unisom?
Take this medication by mouth with or without food. Follow the directions for dosing on the label, or take as directed by your doctor. This medication may be taken with food or milk if stomach upset occurs. If you are using the chewable form of this medication, chew thoroughly and then swallow.
If you are using the liquid form of this medication, measure the dose cautiously with the use of a special measuring device/spoon. Do not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose. Do not take more medication than recommended or take it more often without consulting your doctor. Your dosage is based on your age, medical condition, and response to therapy.
What are the Side Effects?
Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, constipation, stomach upset, blurred vision, decreased coordination, or dry mouth/nose/throat may occur. If any of these effects continue or even worsen, quickly get in touch with your doctor or pharmacist.
If your doctor has instructed you to use this medication, remember that he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including seizure.
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, promptly get medical assistance right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, that may include: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing. This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you observe other effects that are not mentioned here, quickly inform your doctor or pharmacist.
What are the Precautions That Need to be Taken?
Before taking doxylamine, you must tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it or if you have any other allergies. This product may have inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems.
Before using this medication, inform your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: breathing problems (e.g., asthma, emphysema), a certain eye problem (glaucoma), heart problems, high blood pressure, liver disease, seizures, stomach problems (e.g., ulcers, blockage), overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), urination problems (e.g., trouble urinating due to enlarged prostate, urinary retention).
This drug may make you dizzy or drowsy or blur your vision. Alcohol or marijuana can make you more dizzy or drowsy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do anything that needs alertness or clear vision until you can do it safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages. To minimize dizziness and lightheadedness, get up slowly when rising from a sitting or lying position.
Liquid products may contain sugar. Caution is advised if you have diabetes.
Older adults may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, confusion, constipation, or trouble urinating. Drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion can increase the risk of falling.
Children may be more sensitive to the effects of antihistamines. In young children, this medication may cause agitation/excitement instead of drowsiness.
This product is safe to use during pregnancy. Based on information from related drugs, this medication may pass into breast milk.
What is ZzzQuil?
ZzzQuil is an over-the-counter nighttime sleep aid that can be purchased without the need for any prescription at most drug stores. The active ingredient in ZzzQuil is diphenhydramine, which is also the active ingredient in the allergy medication Benadryl.
Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that people often use to help them deal with allergic reactions, itchiness, and hives. The most common side effect of diphenhydramine is drowsiness.
What is ZzzQuil Used For?
A person should use ZzzQuil as a short-term relief for problems with sleep.
The active ingredient in ZzzQuil is an antihistamine called diphenhydramine.
Antihistamines reduce the effect of histamines, which are natural chemicals that the body generates during an allergic reaction.
Diphenhydramine binds to the histamine-1 receptor in the body. This receptor can be found in a lot of parts of the body, which include the respiratory tract, abdominal tract, immune cells, and brain. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine are usual ingredients that are found in allergy and cold medications.
The most common side effect of diphenhydramine is drowsiness, which is because of the effect that some antihistamines can have on the brain. It is strongly recommended by the manufacturer that ZzzQuil be used just for relieving occasional sleeplessness. ZzzQuil works by helping to lessen the time it takes for a person to fall asleep.
How to Take ZzzQuil
Adolescents and adults can utilize of ZzzQuil as short-term help for occasional problems getting to sleep. It is strongly recommended that children below 12 years of age should not use this medication.
The suggested dose of ZzzQuil is 50 mg at bedtime when needed, or as a person’s doctor directs. ZzzQuil can be bought in both liquid and capsule forms.
For the liquid form, a single 50-milligram dose is equal to 30 milliliters, or 2 tablespoons. Liquid ZzzQuil comes with a special cup for measuring out the correct dose.
For the capsule form, a single 50 mg dose is equal to two ZzzQuil capsules. A person cannot cut, chew, or split the capsules. People should not take more than 50 mg of ZzzQuil in a single day.
The liquid form of ZzzQuil has 10% alcohol. ZzzQuil is also available in an alcohol-free liquid solution, which may be more appropriate for adolescents.
What are the Side Effects?
The side effects of diphenhydramine can include headaches and drowsiness.
Diphenhydramine, which is the active ingredient in ZzzQuil, can cause side effects in some people.
The most common side effects of diphenhydramine include:
- loss of coordination
- upper abdominal pain
- thickened mucus in the lungs
- dry mouth and nasal passages
- stimulation of the central nervous system
- involuntary muscle movements
- painful or difficult urination
- low blood pressure
- blurred or double vision
- irregular heartbeat
- sensitivity to light
- erectile dysfunction
- early periods
Rarely, more serious side effects can occur, including:
- severe allergic reactions
- abnormal heart rhythm
What Are the Precautions That You Should Know About?
The intended use of ZzzQuil is for occasional sleeplessness. It is strongly recommended that people consult a doctor if they keep on experiencing sleeping difficulties for over 2 weeks, as this may be a symptom of a dire medical condition.
Because ZzzQuil can result in experiencing drowsiness, it may affect a person’s ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. It is also crucial to avoid drinking alcohol when taking ZzzQuil as this can also heighten drowsiness. Older adults should use ZzzQuil with caution as side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and low blood pressure can raise the risk of falling.
Taking ZzzQuil may also have the possibility to worsen particular medical conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
Individuals with these conditions should definitely consult their doctor before taking ZzzQuil.
People who experience urinary difficulties while taking ZzzQuil should also stop taking the medication and speak to a doctor.
What Are Other Sleep Aids You Can Try?
These are the best selection of smart, effective sleep aids for insomnia, relaxation and treating sleep disorders. These innovative sleep gadgets can help address your sleep issues without having to resort to taking any sleeping pills or potions.
1) Nemuriale Sleep Aid
- Soft, plush cover
- Vibrates with heartbeat rhythm
- Beats softer over 20 minutes to lull you to sleep
Hailing from Japan, Nemurierale is a sleep and relaxation aid that calms you by beating like a heart for 20 minutes Whether you are feeling stressed or have a difficult time getting to sleep, the calming heartbeat of Nemuriale offers a familiar and relaxing comfort.
Nemuriale is an egg-sized device that fits into a black, plush “I (heart) SLEEP” zippered case. Press and hold the button on the egg for two seconds to turn it on. The egg will vibrate with a heartbeat-like rhythm, getting softer and softer over 20 minutes until it automatically shuts off. Found to be effective for people dealing with stress, anxiety attacks, and insomnia, the device provides relief because of its comforting human-like heartbeat rhythm.
2) 2Breathe Sleep Inducer
- Bluetooth sensor guides breathing as you fall asleep
- Composes personalized music so you drift to sleep
- Adapted from proven, FDA-approved technology
2Breathe is a smart sleep aid device and mobile app that helps you fall asleep with guided breathing tones. 2Breathe helps calm your mind and relaxes your body with the use of personalized sound tones to slow down your breathing. You can use it any time you have trouble falling asleep or when you want to reduce the effects of jet lag.
Here’s how it works: put the Bluetooth-enabled smart sensor band around your ribcage over your clothes and open the 2Breathe app on your smartphone. Then lie down in bed and close your eyes. As you inhale and exhale, the sensor wirelessly transmits feedback to your phone and gives you a custom, guided sound tone.
As your breaths follow the gradually slowing tone, you will drift to sleep. A session lasts only 10 minutes and the sensor automatically shuts off. You can take the sensor off when your session ends.
2Breathe provides a natural and safe solution – no need for sleeping pills. It was derived from RESPeRATE, an FDA-approved medical device proven to lower blood pressure and lessen stress. Research has found that the inability to fall asleep is often a result of intrusive thoughts and elevated stress levels. Deep breathing is proven to relieve stress and induce sleep.
3) Lully Sleep Guardian 2
- Under-mattress pod vibrates to prevent night terrors
- Prevented 8/10 night terrors in a groundbreaking Stanford study
- Record and visualize your child’s progress on Lully iOS app
Sleep Guardian 2 is the only clinically-tested device that’s been proven to reduce night terrors in children. The device was originally developed by a Stanford Medical University physician and father who spent years researching children’s sleep. In a clinical study at Stanford, Sleep Guardian stopped 8 out of 10 night terror attacks in 4 weeks of use. It’s proven to be safe and is recommended by top pediatricians.
Sleep Guardian 2 is safe as the pod uses a low energy Bluetooth connection, 1,200 times weaker than most phone radio waves. It has been tested and shown to work with thick memory foam, latex, and pillow top mattresses.