Are OTC Sleeping Aids as Addictive as Prescription Sleeping Pills?

It is true that OTC sleeping aids can be less expensive than prescription sleeping pills, but are they are addictive? Many OTC sleeping aids contain Benadryl, which is typically used for allergy relief. It is effective as an occasional sleep aid and will also help with a sniffle or two. These OTC medications are only intended to be used as temporary relief and not long term. Prescription sleeping pills are intended for long term use and are monitored by your doctor.

The chances of becoming addicted to an OTC sleep aid are minimal. If taken for the inability to fall asleep, one might begin to need the sleep aid on a regular basis. If stopped after long term use, insomnia might return. Is the lack of being able to sleep due to the medication or the suggestion of the medication? There are other things to do to assist someone with falling and staying asleep besides an OTC medication. Cool, dark rooms are best for a good night’s sleep. No distractions, such as TV or music, should be in the room. Do not take in caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime. If needed some Melatonin can be taken to aid in sleep. And it’s important to exercise and relieve the stress of the day.

So, the answer is no, OTC sleeping aids are not as addictive as prescription sleeping pills. Caution should still be used when using an OTC more than occasionally, however. Persistent trouble sleeping could be caused by a medical condition. Always seek professional help if this occurs.


N.A. “OTC Sleeping Pills Dangerous on a Nightly Basis?” (Website). (2015).
  • 4 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • More than becoming addictive, the problem will be tolerance. Our bodies will become tolerant of the OTC and then it will no longer work for us anyways. They can give you a hang over effect and make you groggy all day. The side effects will be listed and I think it is good to think which we would rather have; baggy eyes from lack of sleep or ruined stomach, eyes, etc. That's why I stick with Melatonin or Valarian. 
  • while they are not addicting, they can become useless for their purpose if the underlying cause of the insomnia is not found.  Also, psychological addiction can happen, where the anxiety of not taking the medication can cause insomnia. As soon as you start thinking you need a medication to sleep, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • I don't know any of the scientific details but personally I haven't tried an OTC sleeping aid that did anything noticeable.  In the absence of any effect I wouldn't be in danger of addiction.  I tried Melatonin once and it didn't seem to do anything for me.  I was under high amounts of stress at the time so that might have reduced its effectiveness, I'm not sure.  I ended up going to my doctor and they prescribed me sleeping pills (zopiclone).  Apparently Zopiclone is less addictive.  I'm still very careful with taking it though, never two nights in a row and as infrequently as possible.
  • I don't think they're AS addictive, no, however you do need to be aware of the fact that if you struggle with addiction anyway you are much better doing your best to stay away from anything that you could possibly get addicted to in the future, including OTC sleeping aids. If you're struggling to sleep then you should try other things (that can be found very easily with an internet search) before you even think about taking anything that could spark your addictive behaviours again. 
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