Best Over The Counter Sleep Aid

By Amber Smith
May 25, 2023 5:00 AMJun 12, 2023 8:24 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

For a lot of people poor sleep health is their biggest barrier to success, and that's where sleep aids come in, and there's nothing more convenient than the over the counter sleep aids. That's why we've spent the time here to collect the best over the counter sleep aids available in 2023.

All of the brands we've selected for you today display exemplary standards and have the highest quality ingredients. We'll go into more details about why we've included them and ranked them as they are, but without any further delay.

The best over the counter sleep aids in 2023:

  1. RestAgain

  2. Elm & Rye Melatonin Gummies

  3. Penguin CBD Capsules

  4. R&R Organic CBD Sleep Gummies

  5. Natrol Melatonin Supplements

  6. Kirkland sleep aids

Why Is Sleep Quality So Important?

Sleep is one of the most important factors of our health, and that feels like an understatement. Without a healthy sleep schedule, our entire lives will suffer a myriad of negative consequences, and these get exponentially worse over longer periods of time. It can effect how well you think, react, learn and get along with others, and honestly we're just scratching the surface.

Hormones and sleep

Your body makes different hormones at different times of the day, and this is directly related to both your sleep patterns and your circadian rhythm. For example when you sleep, your body naturally reduces the amount of cortisol in your brain. Cortisol is related to alertness, but also stress, so when we have poor sleep that cortisol remains, directly affecting our mood and ability to tackle the higher stress tasks.

Metabolism and sleep

Your digestive system is directly related to your circadian clock and as such, your bodies ability to absorb essential nutrients efficiently can be negatively affected by poor quality sleep. There are other negative effects, such as a decreased ability to respond to insulin, decreased physical activity and even an increased consumption of food. All of this will contribute towards obesity and being overweight.

immune system And Sleep

Our immune system is a vital part of our health, with us become far more susceptible to terrible and dangerous illness with its deterioration. There's a tonne of evidence showing that people who don't get quality sleep (or enough sleep) are more susceptible to getting sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold. As if that wasn't enough, it also has negative repercussions on our ability to recover when we do get sick

Cognition and sleep

It's been known for a long time that sleep has a major impact on our ability to form memories, and it is believed that dreams also play an important role in this. This means that without a good night's sleep, anything you learned that day could be forgotten. When you can forget everything from an important detail on a work assignment or the name of that person you just met you can see how important this really is.

Can I Naturally Improve Sleep Quality?

Absolutely you can, and we encourage you to take every countermeasure possible get more restful sleep. More than anything you should try to establish and stick to a sleep schedule, making sure to set an alarm as consistency with when you wake up is just as crucial as when you go to bed. You also need to create a restful environment that you spend a bit of time relaxing in before attempting to sleep, as leaving a stimulating environment and immediately going to bed without feeling tired can often lead you to tossing and turning for quite some time. If you find that this is happening a lot, it's best to leave your bed an re-enter this relaxing environment and engaging in a low energy task. You should only return to bed once you start to feel tired.

How To Choose The Best Over The Counter Sleep Aids

Now that you know why we need a good night's sleep, let's get into how we can choose the right sleep aid for us.

High Quality Ingredients

We accept nothing but the best and so should you. Every sleep aid included in this list has the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on, derived from natural sources.

Clinically proven

It might seem a little daunting at first but we are living in the age of information, and that rings true no more so than in the scientific world. We look at the best studies to provide us with the evidence of efficacy for these ingredients and see which ones have been shown to provide the best effects. The best over the counter sleep aid will have ingredients with the highest efficacy that has been demonstrated and observed under a scientific lens.


As well as studying scientific literature to learn about the efficacy of the ingredients, we look at the doses used to achieve these effects and compare it to the doses included to determine which sleep aid is more effective than the other


Like a picky eater we've saved the most important for last in safety. It almost goes without saying but it's very important to consider the safety of any of the products we aim to include. This requires looking through brand testing results as well as customer reviews.

RestAgain - Best Over the counter sleep aid

The UK's favourite sleep supplement has come to the US and found itself very much in our good graces. There's 11 scientifically backed ingredients that are designed to get you to sleep and help you stay asleep, and it achieves this by aiming to work with our bodies natural processes.

There are chemicals that our body produces naturally that make us sleepy, such as melatonin and GABA. To produce these chemicals though, our bodies require particular vitamins and nutrients and this is where RestAgain starts in its journey to get to better sleep. Vitamin D and B6 both present symptoms of deficiency that relate to trouble falling asleep and a deficiency in either can be linked directly to insomnia and depression.

There's also herbal supplements such as Ashwagandha, which was shown to increase sleep quality as well as the speed in which patients who suffered with insomnia would fall asleep [1]. L-Theanine is used more commonly to treat sleep disturbance, and it's believed the mechanics by which it achieves this is by enhancing production of GABA, having the effect of increasing the expression of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, providing a relaxant effect [2]. Finally valerian root has been demonstrated to be a safe and useful herb in treating sleep problems and anxiety, and has been particularly considered useful as a sleep aid for those suffering from anxiety disorders as a result [3].

RestAgain doesn't stop there though, and provides you precisely what you need to sleep in the moment as well in GABA and melatonin. This will tell your body that it's time to sleep, helping to counter sleep disorders and improve sleep quality.

Check RestAgain Deals

Elm And Rye Melatonin Gummies - Best Gummy

Elm and Rye are one of the best and most reputable supplement manufacturers around, and their melatonin gummies are no exception. With a no nonsense approach, this sleep aid provides you with a cost effective and simple solution to help keep poor sleep quality at bay. The dietary supplement being consumed as a gummy also helps provide an option for those of us who either dislike or have trouble swallowing when it comes to taking sleeping pills. Elm and Rye's laser focus helps it shine above other melatonin supplements, holding it's place in the market as the best solution for people who just struggle with occasional sleeplessness and want an elegant solution that doesn't bombard them with ingredients in an attempt to be the worlds strongest sleep aid.

The melatonin gummies are a great example of what you see is what you get, and in this sense what you get is melatonin. To go into more detail about it, melatonin is a chemical that our brains produce in line with our circadian rhythm. As the sun sets and light begins to fade into the evening, our body begins to produce melatonin in higher quantities, leading to us to feel tired and want to rest. Some people can struggle to produce this properly however, especially though who suffer with circadian rhythm sleep disorders. For the rest of us though this can be caused by environmental factors such as not getting enough sunlight in a day, and for both Elm And Rye's melatonin gummies are a fantastic way to treat this occasional sleeplessness.

Check Elm And Rye Deals

Penguin CBD Capsules - Best CBD

There has been an undeniable surge of popularity in the use of cannabinoids in the US. This has been reflected in the medical and supplemental communities with a larger degree of emphasis being placed on testing cannabinoids to see what benefits they can bring forward and of course test for potential health risks.

Preclinical studies have found a lot of anecdotal evidence that smoking cannabis can induce sleep. A controlled clinical trial of 72 adults found that 57 patients had decreased levels of anxiety within just a month, and the sleep scores show a similar effect with 48 patients reporting they had less trouble sleeping [4].

Check Penguin Deals

R&R Organic CBD Sleep Gummies

R&R CBD is the brand that finally makes CBD Sleep gummies right - with 25mg Full Spectrum Organic CBD, 5mg CBN, 50mg L-Theanine, and 25mg Ashwaganda to relax you and promote a deep night's sleep; you can really feel the difference. Vegan, sugar coated, no artificial flavors or colors, and simple ingredients make this gummy option a clear winner compared to other gummies on the market. Their ustom infused formula that is guaranteed to help you fall asleep, stay asleep longer, and wake up well rested. R&R partnered with a local candy manufacturer to create these one-of-a-kind gummies. Unlike most other ‘sprayed’ gummies, they truly infuse their CBD into the formula and ensure the hemp flavor doesn’t overpower the deliciousness of each piece.  Each jar has 30 Melatonin-Free gummies with an amazing blueberry taste in one of R&R's most delicious gummies yet. This is an outstanding bang for your buck with a 60-day money-back guarantee and hundreds of 5-star reviews, R&R's product quality and customer care is second to none.

Natrol Melatonin - The Best Simple Sleep Aid

Natrol took the whole idea of a dietary supplement to help promote sleep and decided to just offer the best natural sleep aid possible with the fewest ingredients. This simple approach is quite commendable and helps to keep costs down whilst still offering a solid product. Natrol just asked "Why over complicate things?" and they certainly have a point.

For anyone struggling with their sleep wake cycle that doesn't what to research a million ingredients.

Kirkland Signature Sleep Aid - The Best Sedating Antihistamines

Kirkland signature sleep aid has taken a different route to the rest of this list and we would just like to state this is 100% a temporary solution, as taking sleeping pills that rely on doxylamine succinate is not recommended long term.

There is a strong sedative effect that some allergy sufferers can attest to and as such it can help people fall asleep faster and face less interruptions with their sleep. Of course there's also the added benefit that you can not only treat insomnia, but treat allergies as well, though that's clearly not the goal here.

We recommend this one for people who just want something to keep in the cupboard for those restless nights when you just can't seem to settle in.

What To Look Out For When Taking Sleeping Pills

Over The Counter sleeping pills are generally pretty safe, however, some can cause nightmares (ironically) and a few other side effects that could be an issue. For example many otc sleep aids contain magnesium and the wrong type of magnsesium for sleep could cause an upset stomach [7] which could prevent sleeping. Then there's ingredients like valerian root which shouldn't be mixed with certain medications, these are all things you'll want to consider.

Do Over The Counter Sleep Aids Work?

The short answer is yes, the long answer is they're not likely to do much for more extreme cases of insomnia, but for a mild disruption to your regular sleep schedule or jet lag, things like melatonin are great. They're even good for more mild cases of chronic insomnia, particularly melatonin which is even available as a prescription solution in some countries [8].

What Are The Best Ingredients For OTC Sleep Aids?

The most common ingredient that you'll see is melatonin, this is a natural sleep aid and your body makes some itself. It's actually the hormone that tells your body it's time to go to sleep. [9] This makes melatonin the most popular sleep aid available over the counter in the USA. It can be effectively dosed between 2 and 10 mg.

Next up we find GABA, which is actually what your body uses to make melatonin, it also has some other benefits in that it's been shown to reduce stress (which as you'd expect also helps people get to sleep more easily). Usually GABA has to be over 100mg to be effective.

L Theanine is another popular and common inclusion, normally extracted from green tea the amino acid seems to be quite an effective sleep aid, in that it's at least consistent, it doesn't seem to do a huge amount to help people fall asleep faster, especially compared to melatonin, but it does seem to improve sleep quality overall.

Valerian Root - Generally the results of valerian root as a sleep aid are positive although would still be deemed as inconclusive [12]. There have been several trails of the otc sleep aids and it has initially shown to be effective at aiding sleep disorders. Dosages are usually between 200 and 400mg. Generally speaking it is well tolerated as far as otc sleeping pills go, but it can case mild nausea in some people.

The Worst Ingredients That Are Common In Sleep Aids

Chamomile - Chamomile does actually work, when drunk as a tea, the problem is that most of the research suggests that it doesn't work all too well in a pill form. [11] It does however also work as an oil, and the scent has been shown to stimulate human hormone production related to sleep.

Lavender - Lavender suffers from the same issue as chamomile, whilst it can have some benefits for sleep aids it doesn't have much in the way of backing to suggest it would work in sleeping pills as it's an olfactory reaction to the scent that helps people sleep, not something that makes sense in otc sleeping pills. [12]

Can Vitamins Help With Sleep?

Some vitamin deficiencies can cause sleep problems, particularly b vitamins, calcium, vitamin d [13] and magnesium [14]. As a result supplementing for these can often help with mild sleep disorders even if the deficiencies are sub clinical (mild) they can cause sleep problems. [13] [14] With even a small lack of vitamins causing noticeable sleep problems, it makes sense that a lot of over the counter sleep aids seek to address this issue to help people fall asleep.

1 -

2 -

3 -

4 -

5 - Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, Volz H-P, Möller H-J, Dienel A, et al. Silexan, an orally administered Lavandula oil preparation, is effective in the treatment of “subsyndromal” anxiety disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2010;25: 277–287.

6 - Cases J, Ibarra A, Feuillère N, Roller M, Sukkar SG. Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Med J Nutrition Metab. 2011;4: 211–218.

7 -

8 -

9 -

10 -

11 -,other%20sleep%20problems%20(33).

12 -

13 -

14 -

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.