Good Sleep Aid (Other than Melatonin and Benadryl) for Myself (Mom)?

Updated on September 04, 2019
M.T. asks from Saint Paul, MN
18 answers

Hi, I used to take melatonin and benadryl to help with sleep every night for a long time. Now I read that benadryl is linked to dementia, I stopped taking it. However, I notice that my sleep is shallower without it. I tried a homeopathic remedy (Calm Forte) but it has not helped at all. I might try Sleep remedy from the same brand but am not hopeful. Does anyone know a good sleep aid - hopefully natural but if not safe to take long term?

Thank you for those of you who have already responded! I realized if I ask for sleep help, I should have provided additional information on my sleep. I have a very regular sleep schedule (10:30 to 7pm), including weekends. I do not have coffee (the only caffeine products I consume) after 3:30pm. I do use computer/phones in the evenings, but I do have blue light blocker on both displays that kick in at 7pm. I do not have phones/computers ping-ing all the time (have them on mute) and mostly use them to read news articles etc. I try not to consume liquids after dinner (8pm or so) since I realized that if I have to get up to go to bathroom in the middle of the night I never fall back asleep. So unfortunately I cannot take relaxing tea etc before bed.

I really am looking for some things that I can take, since I feel like I am doing everything I can in other areas. However, I'm open to other input if I'm missing anything. Thank you for your help!

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So What Happened?

Hi, Thank you so much for your responses! I learned so much from them.

Now I am thinking before I try another sleep aid, I have to take care of a few things. One is to get a more comfortable mattress (current one causes various pains). Another is to take care of skin itch that often wakes me up in the middle of the night (it was actually hives that I tended to get in sleep that I started to take benadryl long time ago). I will also try to reduce coffee intake (maybe switch to a decaf coffee or some kind of decaf tea). It also makes sense to allow myself time to get used to sleeping without substance help. I will pause on looking for sleep aid and see if can go back to getting used to sleeping without them. I have noted some ideas from your comments on what sleep aids to try if I still seem to need something.

I have had a sleep study a few years ago for "unrestful sleep." They did not find much other than teeth grinding. The doctor was surprised that I did not get into deep sleep for a long time, until almost the time sleep study was done, even though I had taken melatonin as directed. The doctor was totally unhelpful in addressing the issue of unrestful sleep. He gave me advice on how to fall asleep, even though I didn't have trouble falling asleep - I was sleeping but was waking up in the morning not feel rested. I have since moved the sleep time earlier (sleeping for longer time) and was feeling much better (until I stopped taking benadryl recently).

Now it's December - more updates.
I tried not taking anything for sleep for a while, but my brain stopped functioning and I had a terrible time because of that at a social gathering, so I gave in. Now I take "Sleep" homeopathic remedy from Hylands, which helps. I initially took "Calm Forte" by the same company which did not help. According to Amazon reviews, it seems like for some Calm Forte works but not Sleep and for some it's the opposite. Apparently for me, Sleep works.

I am only taking one cup of coffee a day (not sure if it changed anything). I've changed my mattress and pillow, and still struggling to find a right one. I've tried several pillows, even buying one that had high rating for being very comfortable and ergonomic, but ended up returning it. Now I use a plan, flat pillow, adjusting it's position multiple times a night.

So, this continues to be an ongoing struggle, but I'm in a much better place than when I initially asked the question. Thank you so much for your input!

More Answers



answers from Atlanta on

Stop looking for any drugs to fix you. That's the first step. Your body is now conditioned to have drugs to sleep. It's sad, but true. Now you need to get over the hump, kinda like an addict, sorry but that's the easiest way to put it. And let your body work.

Talk with your doctor. Get a sleep study done.
Drinking water is fine. It's the caffeine that makes your brain "awake".
Exercise. Make sure you're TIRED before you go to bed.
Get away from the electronics. Work on puzzles, read a book, journal 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
Hot shower. Anything to help you relax.

Stop taking any drugs to help you sleep. Will it take awhile? Yes. Unfortunately it will. but clean your body out and work on its own.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I really think you need to ask your doctor about this one. There are just so many factors that can affect sleep. Isn't it possible you could have an underlying condition that is affecting your sleep? There could be something going on that you are not aware of, and trouble sleeping is just one of the symptoms you're experiencing.

Even if there is nothing else causing this, your doctor would be the best person to ask about different things you could take to help your sleep. My SIL has some sleep issues, and her doctor was able to prescribe something that has made a huge difference for her.

I just think you're better off talking to your doctor in detail about what you've experienced, what you've tried, how it's worked.

i have to be honest, I've heard of people using Benedryl to help them sleep, and that's always bothered me. Benedryl has so many other active ingredients to treat allergies. I just wouldn't want to take a medicine that is made for symptoms I don't have. Maybe it doesn't matter, but I've only taken Benedryl if I needed allergy relief.

Talk to your doctor. That would seem to me to be the best place to start.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You're looking for a magic pill. Sorry. You need to stop looking for the magic pill and let your body find its natural rhythm. Our bodies change over the years, about every 7 years they say. Your sleep WILL be shallower as long as your body is accustomed to drugs to help you sleep. Stop with the drugs.

As others have stated? Get away from the electronics, TV, Cell, Kindle, Computer, etc. for at least one hour prior to bed time. The "blue light blocker" doesn't change what your brain is signaling. DO NOT USE ANY ELECTRONICS for at least one hour prior to bed.

You say you have a strict schedule? Well, since your target is 10:30, at 9:30PM, start reading a book. If you don't want to read a book, write in a journal. Stop drinking caffeine after 4PM. This gives your body 6 hours to process it.

Spray lavender on your bed/pillow.
Use ear plugs and/or the sleep mask to keep noise and light from bothering you.

Take a soothing bath at 9PM. This will signal your body to "calm" and "rest".

Talk with your doctor. Maybe you need a sleep study done. Maybe you need to have a blood test to see where your hormones are.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

1) What does your doctor say?
I think the first thing, before taking any chemicals, would be to let your doctor know. You don’t state your age, medical conditions or what medications you are taking.

Have you ever had a sleep study?

There could be medical issues preventing you from sleeping. See your doctor, discuss with him/her and get some blood work done.

I was always told a good carbohydrate snack (triggers tryptophan) before bed helps with sleep. Also fatty acids are important to add to your diet. They help with prostaglandins (which decrease in women) which helps regulate sleep. Again , this is why it is important to discuss with your physician.

A good bedtime routine works wonders.....

Hope you find a solution. Chemicals are never the way to go. They are usually just masking the real problem. Contact your physician and start evaluating your diet, nutrition and the overall state of your health.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You could try L-Theanine. It’s just an amino acid so it’s safe. It’s the amino acid found in some teas. Do some research on it and ask your dr about any other meds you are taking. You can find it at any health food place with the supplements. I’m not one to take stuff willy nilly, so this comes highly recommended by me. I took it for stress and anxiety, but it works for sleep also.

As far as those jumping down your throat for taking Benadryl for sleeping, it’s the same ingredient as Tylenol PM. When my husband was in the ICU after his brain hemorrhage I wasn’t sleeping well at all. The nurses suggested I take Benadryl. I literally took half a 6yr old’s dosage and it worked. It got me through the rough beginning of the rest of my life.

You might also want to try a brisk walk or meditation. But play around with the exercise timing. You don’t want a negative effect.
Added: The walking helps boost sleep hormones. You could also try a light snack. You might be up because of a drop in blood sugar. Try something that is slow to digest like a half an apple with some peanut butter.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Camomile tea about a half hour before bedtime is popular.
As we age some of us tend to get more sensitive to caffeine.
I can have 1 cup of tea or coffee early in the morning.
If I have it later it will interfere with my trying to sleep at night.
So I have cut way back on caffeine.
My husband isn't sensitive to it - it relaxes him - so he can have coffee after dinner and still sleep well at night.

Benadryl and Zzzquil have the same active ingredient - DPH
Same thing - different marketing.
While Benadryl doesn't say how long you can use it, Zzzquil recommends you shouldn't use it for longer than 2 weeks at a time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

since you can't drink tea, i'd take a nice warm bubble bath and some valerian in a form other than tea. spritz some lavender or Pillow Potion onto your pillow. work out hard in the afternoon. don't read your phone or computer when you go to bed, read an actual book.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

It sounds like you know all about sleep hygiene. I had struggled with going to sleep for as long as I can remember. I remember researching at the library about how to fall asleep when I was in middle school and trying meditations. So it’s been a long time. In my case, I had undiagnosed sleep apnea which can also cause insomnia. Now that it’s treated with a CPAP, I can fall asleep easily. I have one mid-night trip to the bathroom but I am almost always able to fall asleep quickly.

As far as a sleep-aid, have you tried magnesium? My ND likes Natural Calm. I think they have a pill form if you can’t do the powder mixed in water.

Hope you find something that helps

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hmmm. I have bee told by MD’s and so has a friend that Benedryl is fine to take regularly. That was awhile ago though before any studies about dementia. So that’s concerning but so often on here, people point out we are not doctors. So their advice about benedryl runs counter to some actual doctors. I think anything too often is not great though except vegetables. :). Only tips I have are magnesium and no wine less than 4 hours or so before bed. Some of us are just bad sleepers though and it sucks. I find playing solitaire on my phone helps. I know the glare is supposed to be bad but it seems overcome by the repetitiveness or something. I can get into bed. Not be tired and then play 5 min and zonk our. Another friend swears by reading a really boring book in the middle of the night.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I think this is best to ask your dr.

And honestly as an adult that’s a lot of hours of sleep for an adult! Maybe you just don’t get tiered enough to sleep that long. Rem sleep is really in intervals I think average 15 minutes or so. All we need is few intervals of rem sleep to feel rested.

All needs to be considered, your age, work, activity level, your prior injuries or conditions.. none of us know this.

Like for example I have 4 kids.. 13, 12, 4 and 19 months.. between driving them to school, getting up early to walk the dogs, keeping up with the baby, making food, walking the dogs again.. picking them up from school and running to practice with the kids, Landry shopping .. you get the
Idea.. by the time I am in bed.. I can not even stay up to see a show I wanted! And if and when I do I go to bed at 2 and wake up at 6.. day starts all over.
I drink coffee all day long..and honestly before bed!

I never heard not having tea if it will help to relax.. we are adults our bladder can hold it in.. again unless you have some health issues.

Go to the gym or walk outside, after take a warm shower or bath to help you relax, heck even a glass of vino and nice music! Have a hubby or bf give you a nice massage. And honestly just go to bed later.

I would not recommend taking drugs. You and your dr need to find a better way. Yes your body will take some time adjusting but at least it will be natural. You need to know the cause and “train” yourself to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Lots of luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My family members stopped taking Benadryl long term for the same reason. We heard it shrinks your brain. I agree with the CBD recommendation.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I would cut back on the coffee at noon. Or, at the very least, after noon, switch to a decaf version for you afternoon cup and see (just experiment) to see if that makes a difference. Seriously, it may be as simple as that. It helped me considerably.

If I have coffee in the afternoons, I'm screwed. And in my earlier years, I used to drink coffee without it affecting me. It's weird as we get older.

I do have a friend who went to her doctor and got a sleep aid that was safe. I don't know the name of it - I believe it is a prescription. I think it is for women. Have you gone that route? It's supposed to not be addictive (or as non-addictive as they can be). It has made the world of difference to her.

My sister swears she gets a much better sleep with her fan on and if she travels (hotels, or anywhere else she just uses an app on her phone) she can use them too. It just drones out everything and puts her in this zen like state and keeps her there. No interruptions and she's gone through menopause.

I have to admit, when I go to her home to visit, she has a big fan overhead and I use it, and I get some of the best sleep I ever get. So that may be an idea. I sleep like a log. I don't even dream. It's like a roaring going on over my head.

I myself used to have problems with sleep, but I take medications for a condition I have, and the benefit (side effect) is that they make you groggy so my doctor recommended I take them at bedtime. So I hear you (can relate). I know how important sleep is. I would talk to your doctor and see if he/she can recommend a sleep aid because if there's one like my friend takes that safe and non-addictive, that would be the way to go in my opinion. Good luck :)

ETA - I too sometimes find a snack before bed helps me sleep through (I used to get low blood sugar).

Also - I don't sleep as long as you do. I go to bed later (although I start my go-to-bed routine earlier, like around 9 pm ... I really like to linger before bed, because that's my 'me' time, but I probably konk out more like 11 pm and I'm up probably just before 6 am. Maybe once you get off the meds, you might find you don't need as much sleep at night, and just need a cat nap in the afternoon. You don't mention your age.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I’ve had sleep issues a long time. Can’t take melatonin because of dreams and stomach cramps.

My best friend uses an app to relax at night. Calm is the name of it. She loves it. I don’t have a hard time going to sleep, but staying asleep. When I wake up, I recite a poem or pray in my mind. Sometimes it helps, sometimes not.

I hope you can figure something out. Not sleeping is the worst.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on


i was once in your shoes. I relied on a pill to get me to sleep. I had a long talk with my PCP and he told me I needed to stop any and all types of pills, supplements, etc. and help my body work on its own.

I had to change a lot of bad habits and diet too. I quit drinking soda. I make sure I don't drink caffeinated products (coffee, tea, etc.) after 3pm.

I eat dinner around 530/6PM.
I wait about 45 minutes and then do a work out and take a shower, a nice warm one. Some times I take a long bath and soak.
About one hour prior to my going to bed, I go to a spot in my bedroom that is "my meditation" spot and stretch and meditate. I then read a book and go to bed.

It has taken about 7 months of this to finally get the sleep I deserve. I now get about 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep a night. Without the aide of ANY type of medication, supplement or pills. You CAN do it. It takes time. Work with your doctor. Find out if you have sleep apnea or something else going on. Ask for a sleep study.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I am in your same boat, I have even found that sleeping aids like Zquil really don't help much since my insomnia is in the early hours of the morning rather than when falling asleep. I have been told this is normal once a woman hits a certain age and her hormones start to change. I have heard of some women having luck once being put on hormone replacement but I can not do that due to breast cancer risks in my family. There is sleep training therapy I am considering you can get through some therapists.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Some of us just don't sleep well. My doctor is fine with using Benadryl - so I guess each doctor recommends differently. I did go to a sleep psychologist years ago and he told me that some of us are born with anxious brains that have a hard time shutting off. He also told me that those of us with anxious brains have an excess of histamine in our systems...which is why Benadryl works. I have trouble falling asleep, but once there can sleep like no ones business. I would suggest talking to a doctor for ideas.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Another tip from my friend, a nurse. Do drink in the hours before you go to bed. Non caffeinated tea or water. The thinking is that other wise your urine becomes too concentrated and will irritate your system.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I cannot sleep in complete silence (noises will startle me awake), nor can I sleep with too much noise. I have a white noise machine, and it helps me immensely. Perhaps this is something that might also help you? I also use a sleep mask, as there is too much lighting coming into my bedroom from the window (I have linen curtains and I live in the city, so there is a lot of street lighting). Taking a warm bath and having some warm chamomile tea also helps. Some folks swear by aromatherapy.

1 mom found this helpful
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