There’s a wide variety of non-prescription sleep aids on the market, ranging from over-the-counter sleeping pills and devices that block light and sound to folk remedies and herbal teas. While none of these sleeping aids require a prescription, some still carry the risk of side-effects or may be harmful if abused. A person should always consult with a doctor when considering non-prescription sleeping aids, as a medical professional is best qualified to determine the source of a patient's sleeplessness and will recommend a sleep aid that’s best for that particular issue.
For those experiencing sleeplessness due to environmental distractions like light and sound, the simplest non-prescription sleep aids include sleeping masks and earplugs. Sleeping masks are designed to block out light, whether artificial or natural, as light stimulates the body to wakefulness. Earplugs, which are available in materials like foam, silicone, and wax, are designed to block out sounds that prevent sleeping. White noise machines are modern sleep aid devices that produce background noise that helps block out other sounds. Most white noise machines produce sounds of nature or static crackling than actual white noise.
Home remedies, which include items that are traditionally considered non-medicinal and are typically found in the home, are also used as non-prescription sleep aids. For example, drinking a cup of warm milk or hot cocoa before bedtime has long been thought to induce sleep. Peanut butter and various foods that are heavy in carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, have also been thought to induce sleepiness when ingested.
There are various herbal teas that are also marketed as non-prescription sleep aids. These teas usually contain one of the oldest herbal sleep aids — chamomile, in their blend. The chamomile plant’s ability to induce drowsiness has been attributed to its flavonoid component, Chrysin, which can also be found in Passionflower. Herbal teas promoted as non-prescription sleep aids may also contain eleuthero, which is a shrub that’s sometimes referred to as “Siberian Ginseng” or valerian, an herb that’s believed to have a sedative effect.
Most major brand-name pain relievers sell a line of products for inducing drowsiness that usually feature the brand name followed by the words “PM” or “night time.” These sleeping pills are available without a prescription, but are often kept behind the pharmacy counter so the pharmacist can consult with the customer prior to selling the pills. These sleep aids can cause various side-effects and can also become habit-forming.