Sleep aids

Over-the-counter products are short-term solutions, but there are other ways to improve sleep.
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  • Updated:9 Jan 2005


Sleep aids

In brief

  • Antihistamines, valerian and other herbal preparations are the main over-the-counter remedies on offer.
  • They may or may not work for you, some can have side effects and none is recommended for long-term insomnia.

Estimates vary, but something like 10–40% of the population has trouble from time to time either getting to sleep or staying asleep. For up to 15% of people, sleep problems are a long-term difficulty.

Often brought about by a major life stressor like ill health, a new job or a relationship break-up, even a few nights’ poor sleep can leave you feeling irritable, lethargic and with a sense that you’re functioning below par. Over a period of time, insomnia can affect your work, health and relationships.

A constant inability to get off to sleep or stay asleep may well have got you pondering whether to get a little chemical or herbal assistance from the chemist.

We asked the experts and had a look at the evidence available to find out how safe and effective these products are. We also sought advice and got some tips to help you get the sleep you may be craving. So rest assured — sleep problems can be treated.

Please note: this information was current as of January 2005 but is still a useful guide today.



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