17 February 2022

Do any over-the-counter sleep remedies work?

Can over-the-counter fixes help you sleep better?

Member comments

Get access to comment

Lynsie Anne M.
19 Mar 2022

For me Magnesium definitely helps with leg cramps so from that point of view it assists with sleep as I am not woken up by cramps. But I still sleep poorly sometimes even taking magnesium and not getting cramps.

Lindsay W.
01 Mar 2022
The accidental benefits of Magnesium

Maybe five years ago I started taking magnesium to help with leg cramps, though I found I had to vary the formulation each night to get a good effect.

A month or two after starting the magnesium I realised that my sleep - which had always been ok - had improved somewhat.

After about a year, I stopped taking the magnesium because I was still getting occasional cramps and wanted to judge the effect. My sleep became much worse and so did the leg cramps.

That pretty much sold me on magnesium and I've been using it ever since. I buy three different brands and rotate them every night.

I have a scientific background and I'm generally sceptical of home cures, but this one certainly works for me above and beyond any placebo effect. After a bad night's sleep I generally find my evening dose still in the medicine dispenser - it's difficult to argue with that, regardless of what the researchers say.

On the other hand, I can have a cup of strong coffee at 9pm and still get a perfect night's sleep, so it seems caffeine has little effect on me. Perhaps we each have to find out what our own bodies need.

Graham P.
28 Feb 2022
What about melatonin?

I'd be interested in whether you came across any evidence for or against melatonin to aid sleep.

N R.
01 Mar 2022
Regarding melatonin

It probably wasn't reviewed because it is not available here over the counter - at least not in a sufficient dose rate. It is available over the counter all around the world but NZ experts consider it dangerous. I have been taking it for years with no ill effects whatsoever, but to get a 10mg dose in NZ you require a script and a fortune. Ridiculous.

Allen Sarah
06 Apr 2022
Available in supermarkets overseas

It's crazy that melatonin is not available without a prescription in NZ.
You can however order it on Amazon and get it delivered without any problems.
Most people start at 4mg or 5mg, though NZ formulary suggests starting at 2mg (please note this is not formal medical advice regarding dosing).

Janet G.
28 Feb 2022
Chamomile tea

What about chamomile tea? A pity this wasn't tested too.

Stephen H.
28 Feb 2022
Better Sleep

Matthew Walker the author of Why We Sleep now has a podcast at https://www.sleepdiplomat.com/podcast, episodes are typically about ten minutes long and I highly recommend them. My sleep improved significantly when I stopped drinking alcohol and coffee, originally as a three month experiment based on hearing Matt Walker on the Kevin Rose podcast. That was about four years ago now and was also when I started a 10000 steps a day regime that I've kept to ever since. While everyone won't want to go full on abstinence, reduction of coffee and alcohol is almost certainly going to help sleep and the daily walking in my case lost me about 20 kilograms (which also contributes to better sleep). I also take magnesium, can't tell if it is placebo or does something but I figured even if it is placebo it is worth it. Many other sleep remedies though not only don't help but can probably make things worse.

Stephen B.
27 Feb 2022
I believe in Magnesium

Due to very long hours at work and not getting a full nights sleep due to pain in my hands and shoulders I spoke to my GP but was only offered pain meds and sleeping tablets
Then after some research I found magnesium was a possible solution but it didn’t work with the first two brands I chose which had only single source magnesium
The one I found that works has multiple sources of magnesium and it works
On the odd late night home when I haven’t taken it I have the worst of nights
The pain in my hands and shoulders has been minimised by the use of B6 and Boron
I now search for natural therapies and mineral and herbal supplements to fix most of my health issues

Gary B.
26 Feb 2022

To add to anecdotal evidence in our family kids and adults, magnesium, tart cherry and prescribed melatonin all work.
Studies on sleep issues are confounded by so many variables is next to impossible to find a study strong enough for a Dr to get behind a natural product. And very hard for any business to fund a sufficiently robust study other than pharma companies who want us all on their meds.

Since the reasons for sleep deficit are so varied it's logical that what works for one person won't be efficacious in another.
Can also highly recommend listening to Dr Rangan Chattergee on sleep and try his breathing exercises. They along with adequate mg are all it takes for me to get back to sleep within minutes.

Debbie K.
26 Feb 2022
Unisom sleepgels

I have been using this over the counter medication for quite some time and found it to work well. You have to speak to the pharmacist to buy it.

Scott M.
26 Feb 2022
Magnesium + Tart Cherry seems effective

I'm quite cynical about the efficacy of over-the-counter treatments of any sort, but after I tried magnesium+tart cherry capsules last year I'm a definite convert - to them at least. I initially used them for two weeks, and irregularly since then. My restless legs issue has vanished, and I sleep more soundly. The only side-effect is that they wear off after about 6 hours. Different things will affect folks in different ways, but for me magnesium+tart cherry works.

Hannah P.
26 Feb 2022
Great article!

It’s good to have all the studies here - looking up each natural treatment to see if it actually works takes time. It’s ridiculous that natural remedies are not regulated or have to substantiate their claims! These companies prey on our desperation and/or vanity to buy supplements which do absolutely nothing (or are potentially harmful if interact w other meds or used instead of an actual medical opinion). I don’t think pharmacies should be allowed to sell supplements which have no evidence of working, the fact they sell homeopathic treatment for babies w colic for example is despicable.