Once you start suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders such as Narcolepsy, sleep apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), snoring, Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS) et al, it becomes an urgent necessity to approach the doctor and undergo treatment in accordance with his instructions.

The doctor may recommend sleeping pills available on prescription such as Ambien, Sonata or Lunesta to treat your insomnia but altogether there are other specific sleep aids available in the market that you can get hold of and treat your sleep disorder.The sleep aids that are commonly used for treating various sleep disorders are included in the following categories:

  • Prescription-Based Sleeping Pills
  • Over-The-Counter Sleeping Aids
  • Natural Sleep Aids

Prescription-Based Sleeping Pills

ambien highSome of the extensively used prescription-based sleeping pills are Ambien, Ambien CR, Lunesta and Sonata.

All these sleeping pills save people from the claws of insomnia by unleashing effects on specific chemicals present in the brain that may become unbalanced at times and trigger off insomnia.

And as these sleeping pills have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) as effective treatments of insomnia, they can be opted for by people suffering from insomnia without any doubt over their efficacy.

Ambien, the medicine owned by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis is considered to be the most popular prescription-based sleeping pill available in the market and other than Ambien; there are also certain other sleeping pills available on prescription  that are especially popular for their effectiveness in treating insomnia. These sleeping pills are mentioned below:

1. Ambien CR

2. Lunesta

3. Sonata

1. Ambien CR

Ambien CR is the product of Sanofi-Aventis, the pharmaceutical company that is also the manufacturer of Ambien® and further details associated with Ambien CR make it evident that it is a medicine approved by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) for treating insomnia.

However, the striking details associated with Ambien CR also point out that it is a two-layered medication and the first layer of this drug is absorbed gradually to help a person fall asleep while the second layer is released quickly and gradually in the body to assist a person in staying asleep.

Ambien CR relieves people from the grip of insomnia quite effectively and this medicine has been made available in the US from October 2005 onwards for treating insomnia in men and women. Altogether, pertaining to Ambien CR, it is noteworthy that it has been approved by the FDA for curing insomnia in people for a comparatively long period of time if the physician recommends long term usage of the drug.


Lunesta® is a prescription-based medicine for treating sleeplessness and it has been approved for helping people to fall asleep as well as to keep them stay asleep. Specific details pertaining to Lunesta are mentioned below:

  • Lunesta® is a product of Sepracor Inc.
  • Lunesta is a hypnotic as well as a sedative and it induces sleep by yielding effects on certain chemicals present in the brain that reach an unbalanced state and lead to insomnia or sleep problems.
  • Lunesta can be taken for short term as well as long term treatment of insomnia. Generally, people who face sleep problems occasionally take Lunesta for a short term period only but others with chronic sleep difficulties can use Lunesta for long term treatment of insomnia.
  • Lunesta may occasionally facilitate certain side-effects such as hallucination, agitation, aggression, behavioral changes, headache, anxiety, depression, feeling of nervousness et al and when these as well as various other Lunesta side-effects show off, you should visit the doctor immediately.
  • However, to yield maximum benefits from Lunesta and to avoid unnecessary harm from the medicine, it is to be administered in the precise manner in which it is prescribed to be taken by the physician. Lunesta is meant to be taken along with a glass of water.
  • Lunesta is never to be administered if you are not having at least 8 hours for sleeping. Altogether, Lunesta is never to be overdosed and you should never take an extra dosage to make up for the missed Lunesta dosage.
  • It is important to note that Lunesta may have drug interactions if you are taking it along with certain other medicines. Therefore, before opting for Lunesta, it is essential to inform the doctor if you are taking ketoconazole (Nizoral), medicines for treating seizures, antidepressants, rifampin (Rifadin, Rifater, Rifamate, Rimactane), anti-anxiety drugs, medicines treating narcotic pain et al.

3. Sonata

Sonata is a prescription-based medicine that has gained approval from the FDA for treating short term difficulty encountered by people in falling asleep. Some of the striking details on Sonata are included below:

  • Sonata is popularly known as a medication that belongs to the specific category of drugs commonly known as hypnotics or sedatives or sleep medicines and it induces sleep by affecting certain chemicals present in the brain that may become unbalanced and lead to insomnia. However, clinical experiments conducted on Sonata have found it effective for reducing the onset of sleep for up to 30 days.
  • The manufacturer/distributor of Sonata is Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Monarch and Zaleplon is the generic name of Sonata.
  • Sonata is meant for treating insomnia on a short term basis only, generally for a period of 7 to 10 days and the medicine is to be opted for only after obtaining a prescription from the physician. If Sonata doesn’t yield the desired results after taking the medication for the recommended short term period, the doctor should be contacted immediately. However, the medicine is not to be administered for more than 2 weeks if not recommended by the doctor.
  • Sonata is to be administered in the exact dosages prescribed by the doctor and in any case, the medicine is not to be taken for bigger dosages than instructed by the physician. It is altogether necessary that you should never think about taking over dosages of Sonata and if a dosage of the medicine is missed out, you should not take any additional dosage to compensate for the missed dose.
  • People using Sonata to treat insomnia may occasionally fall victim to certain side-effects of Sonata. Some of these side-effects triggered off by Sonata are namely, numbness/tingling, memory and concentration problems, felling of nervousness, depression, anxiety, headache, agitation, aggression, behavioral changes et al. Further, as soon as you fall prey to these and other Sonata side-effects, you should contact the doctor immediately.
  • Sonata is capable of interacting with certain other medicines and hence before administering Sonata,  you should inform the doctor appropriately if you are taking seizure medications, medicines for relaxing the muscles, medicines for treating narcotic pain and anxiety, drugs for treating depression, namely, sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and several other medicines.

Over-The-Counter Sleeping Aids

best over the counter sleeping pillsThe over-the-counter sleep aids that are extensively used for treating insomnia are particularly, Unisom, Tylenol Pm, Nytol and Sominex. To use the over-the-counter sleep aids for treating insomnia, a prescription from the doctor is not necessary but to ensure safe and effective usage of these medicines, they are to be administered in accordance with the instructions of the physician only.

Likewise to prescription-based sleeping pills, the over-the-counter sleeping aids are also proved to be effective in treating insomnia. Most of the sleeping aids available over-the-counter contain an antihistamine as the principal ingredient and as antihistamines counter the effects of histamines that are primarily responsible for causing a person to lay awake, the anti-histamines present in over-the-counter sleeping pills make people fall asleep instantly and effectively.

The principal difference between over-the-counter sleep aids and prescription-based sleeping pills is that over-the-counter mediations can be purchased without a prescription and also without visiting a healthcare practitioner while a patient under the grip of insomnia is entitled to buy prescription-based sleeping pills only after getting hold of prescriptions from the doctor.

Some of the well-known over-the-counter sleep aids are namely,

1. Tylenol Pm
2. Unisom
3. Sominex
4. Nytol

1. Tylenol Pm

Tylenol Pm is an over-the-counter sleeping pill containing Diphenhydramine HCl and Acetaminophen as active ingredients. Diphenhydramine hydrochloride, is an anti-histamine, hypnotic as well as sedative that yields effective results to relieve people from the grip of insomnia. However, Acetaminophen, another active ingredient of Tylenol Pm acts as a pain reliever.

The sleep aid Tylenol Pm functions primarily by inhibiting the functioning process of the neurotransmitter and the inhibition of the neurotransmitter leads to the suppression of the central nervous system and this further makes people fall asleep.

Other striking tidbits associated with Tylenol Pm are mentioned below:

  • McNeil Cons is the manufacturer as well as distributor of Tylenol Pm and the generic name of Tylenol Pm is acetaminophen.
  • Tylenol Pm is especially known for yielding effects when sleepiness is caused by any kind of pain. This medication relieves pain quickly as well as fastly and makes people fall asleep with ease.
  • To obtain effective results from Tylenol Pm, it is essential to take the medicine as per the instructions of the doctor. However, you should not opt for acetaminophen if you have allergies for acetaminophen, diphenhydramine as well as any other anti-histamine.
  • Altogether, before administering Tylenol Pm, it is necessary to inform the doctor if you are suffering from kidney disease, glaucoma, liver disorder, enlarged prostate or if you are facing problems while urinating.
  • On missing a dosage of Tylenol Pm, you should take the missed dose immediately or if it is too late, you should leave the missed dosage without trying to make up for it. However, if you have taken over dosage of Tylenol Pm, it is essential to contact the doctor immediately.
  • If you have fallen prey to any Tylenol Pm side-effects, you should instantly consult the doctor without any delay.

2. Unisom

Unisom is a product of Chattem, Inc. and is used widely as an over-the-counter sleep aid. However, Unisom is available in three different forms, namely, Unisom SleepTabs®, Unisom SleepGels® and Unisom SleepMelts™.

The striking characteristics and specific details associated with Unisom are included below:

  • Unisom is clinically proven to be a safe and effective medicine for decreasing sleep difficulties.
  • Unisom SleepTabs contain doxylamine succinate as the principal active ingredient. Doxylamine succinate is clinically proven and its safety and efficacy is duly established.
  • Unisom SleepTabs put you to sleep 25 minutes faster in an average.
  • Unisom SleepGels have diphenhydramine HCl as the principal active ingredient and is available in a gelly form that can be easily swallowed.
  • Unisom SleepMelts contain 25 mg/tablet of diphenhydramine HCl and clinically proven to be effective for inducing sleep.

3. Sominex

Sominex is a product of GlaxoSmithKline and is made available in the United State as an over-the-counter medicine for treating insomnia. Sominex is available in two specific formulas, namely, original and maximum strength formulas and these two formulas have diphenhydramine as the active component. The fundamental tidbits associated with Sominex are mentioned below:

  • The chief chemical ingredient of Sominex diphenhydramine HCl makes you feel drowsy and thus assists you in falling asleep without any difficulty.
  • Sominex is proven to be effective for providing complete sleep for six to eight hours.
  • Generally, a patient suffering from insomnia is instructed to take 1 caplet (50mg. of diphenhydramine HCl per caplet) or 2 tablets (25mg. of diphenhydramine HCl per tablet) half or one hour before sleeping. But to obtain effective results from Sominex and prevent unwanted side-effects of the medicine, it is to be administered as per the instructions of the doctor.

4. Nytol

Nytol® is an over-the-counter medicine manufactured by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. This medicine is available in regular strength/extra strength dosages and can be purchased in tablet/caplet form. Some of the important tidbits related to Nytol are described below:

  • Nytol contains Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride as the active component. Soon after the administration of the medicine, Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride springs into action and makes you fall asleep within just 20-30 minutes. To obtain effective results from Nytol, this medicine is to be used in accordance with the instructions of the doctor only.
  • Nytol tablets/caplets are to be taken along with water 30 minutes before getting off to sleep.
  • Nytol is meant to be stored at room temperature, away from the reach of children.

Natural Sleep Aids

best sleeping aidsNatural Sleep Aids are sleep aids that are available naturally and yield their effects in a completely natural process to rescue people from the shackles of insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Some of the popular natural sleep aids are,

  • Valerian
  • Chamomile
  • The Passion Flower
  • Tryptophan
  • Melatonin
  • 5-HTP

To treat sleeping disorders with natural sleep aids in the best effective manner, herbs and herbal extracts are to be used as per the instructions of a herbalist. Further, for effective results, the natural sleep aids other than herbs and herbal supplements should be used in accordance with the instructions of a specialist of natural medicine.


Chamomile, the natural sleep aid listed at the top here is extensively available in tea or pill form to treat as well as cure insomnia. However, in certain places around the world; chamomile is also used in a sachet and when the sachet containing chamomile is placed under the pillow of a person suffering from sleeplessness, he is found to be sufficiently relieved from the grip of insomnia.

It is not necessary to use chamomile regularly to obtain relief from insomnia or sleeplessness as when used instantly, this common flowering plant provides adequate relief from insomnia


Tryptophan is a specific amino acid that functions effectively and relieves people from the clasp of insomnia. This amino acid is available in certain food items having too much protein such as turkey, soy, milk, chicken, beans etc. and therefore, to treat insomnia with Tryptophan, the person suffering from the sleep disorder should take food items containing protein in more quantity or can also opt for supplements having Tryptophan.


Valerian is specifically a perennial flowering plant and the root extract of this plant is extensively used as a sleep aid. However, to obtain maximum benefits from Valerian, the root extract of this plant is to be used regularly for a period of around one month as short term use of valerian root is not likely to yield results.

The Passion Flower

The Passion Flower is a flowering plant and is proven to be effective for treating insomnia that doesn’t seem to go away quickly. As a natural sleep aid, the passion flower doesn’t have any side-effects and as it doesn’t cause any addiction, it can be used by the elderly population as well as by the children.

The passion flower helps patients of insomnia to sleep peacefully without any side-effect and thus it is considered to be an effective treatment for sleeplessness.


Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body and pineal gland, a pea-sized tiny organ located in the center of our brain secrets melatonin during nighttime for the purpose of controlling our sleep wake cycles.

However, it is known that melatonin is also produced in the laboratory and has been made available as a supplement in various food and health stores located in the US.


5-HTP is a specific compound that is naturally produced by the body from Tryptophan and clinical experiments have proved that this compound provides effective as well as consistent results in relieving people from the grip of insomnia. In comparison to sleeping pills, 5-HTP is considered to be more effective for yielding results without side-effects and clinical trials have also made it apparent that this compound is efficient in curing sleep disorders other than insomnia also.

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is available in many foods and also extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia tree which is generally available in the West African nations.

Prescription-based Sleeping Pills Vs Natural Sleeping Aids

Sleeping pills available on prescription are opted for by a larger section of people across the world as they are mostly prescribed by the doctors to treat insomnia but alongside the growing popularity of chemically synthesized sleeping pills, the natural sleeping aids have also carved out a niche for themselves in the market. The natural sleep aids are less expensive than prescription-based sleeping pills and they are also almost without any side-effects which has led to the growing popularity of natural sleep aids.

The significant differences between prescription-based sleeping pills and natural sleeping aids are namely,

  • The sleeping pills available on prescription such as Ambien, Ambien CR, Lunesta and Sonata act instantly after administration while Tryptophan, Valerian, Chamomile and other natural sleep aids start working at a comparatively slower pace after intake. After administration, Ambien takes around 15-30 minutes to start functioning and the other prescription-based sleep medicines also instantly yield effective results. This is, however, considered to be one of the specific benefits of sleeping pills that make them more advantageous than the natural sleep aids.
  • The natural sleep aids function naturally on the body and relieve people from the shackles of insomnia. On the other hand, the prescription-based sleeping pills such as Ambien make people fall asleep by unleashing effects on specific chemicals present in the brain that reach an unbalanced state and cause insomnia.
  • Sonata, Lunesta, Ambien and Ambien CR are approved by the FDA(Food and Drugs Administration) as effective medicines for curing insomnia but most of the natural sleep aids are not FDA approved and their efficacy as well as accuracy is not been evaluated by the Food and Drugs Administration.
  • Almost all natural sleep aids don’t yield disastrous side-effects triggered off by the chemically synthesized prescription-based medicines and therefore, in this regard, they are considered to be safer than the sleeping pills that can be availed after obtaining prescriptions from the physician.

These are some of the chief characteristics of prescription-based sleeping pills and natural sleep aids that distinguish one from another. However, the aforementioned comparative analysis of Prescription-based Sleeping Pills and Natural Sleeping Aids make it apparent that the sleeping pills that are recommended by the doctor are more effective than their natural counterparts as their efficacy is clinically approved and also they are sanctioned by the FDA as safe and effective medicines for treating insomnia.



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