Last updated: August 11, 2021
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Everyday stress, extreme emotions, work, children - there are many factors that can disturb sleep. Sleep disorders have a very negative effect on our everyday life, our health and even our lifespan. That's why more and more people are reaching out for sleep aid supplements, which are available in various forms. With the right dosage and medical advice, the irritating insomnia can be eliminated in a short time.

We are glad that you have found your way to our great sleep aid test 2022. We will provide you with all the information you need about sleeping pills. You will learn in which form the sleeping pills can be found, how much they cost and what side effects they have. All this will help you find the perfect solution for insomnia.


  • More and more adults complain about sleep problems. Such complaints can have a negative impact on daily life.
  • The strong sleeping pills require a prescription and usually have many side effects. The herbal sleep aids are available without a prescription, but you cannot take them for long.
  • The sleeping pills should not be taken for long periods of time. Even if they are herbal remedies, the intake must always be limited. Ideally, sleep disorders should always be discussed with a doctor.

The Best Sleep Aid: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a sleeping aid

What is a sleep aid?

Extreme emotions such as anxiety or excitement before an important event or trip, stress or even a cold can cause our sleep problems.Sleep aid preparations, or in other words sleeping pills, include products - tablets, sprays, teas - that help us fall asleep more easily. (1)

In the case of acute sleep disorders, consultation with a doctor would be necessary, because such complaints can sometimes also indicate other diseases.


Nowadays more and more people suffer from sleep disorders.
(Image source: /Annie Spratt)

Sedative substances and drugs to support or induce sleep have been known in psychiatric treatment since the 19th century. Since most acute mental crisis states are accompanied by restlessness, anxiety and sleep disorders, this principle of action is still indispensable today, especially as a first, relieving aid in highly acute states of anxiety and tension. (2)

How does a sleep aid work?

Depending on which sleeping aid preparation you take, it will have different effects on our body. In general, a distinction is made between strong and weak sleeping pills. They promote falling asleep and staying asleep and can enable a restful night's sleep in the case of sleep disorders.

Strong sleeping pills are effective in calming the body and inducing sleep. Due to their rapid onset of action, they often relieve the fear of not being able to sleep properly. However, with prolonged use, they lead to physical changes and thus possible physical dependence.

Weak sleep aid preparations include antihistamines, melatonin and herbal sleep aids. These are the substances whose effects - but also side effects - are significantly lower. There is also no danger of physical dependence here. Nevertheless, even for these preparations, they do not address the root of the problem and should therefore only be used in the short term and as a supportive measure. (3)

In the table below, we have listed the most commonly used strong and weak sleep aid preparations so that you have a better overview:

Sleeping pills Strength Effect Prescription required
Benzodiazepines Strong Sleep-inducing effect, anxiety and anticonvulsant, sedative and muscle relaxant Yes
Zopiclone, zolpidem Strong Sleep-inducing effect, anxiety and anticonvulsant, sedative and muscle relaxant Yes
Antidepressants Strong Sedative, sleep-inducing effect Yes
Antihistamines Weak Alleviates allergies, sleep-inducing side effect No
Melatonin Weak Supports natural biorhythm and sleep/wake rhythm Yes (in Germany)
Herbal preparations ( valerian, hops, lemon balm, passionflower herb) Weak Sleep-inducing effect No

When should I take the sleeping aid?

The sleeping aid preparations are taken if you have problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night. Problems with sleeping can be caused by anything from daily stress, anxiety, excitement, jet lag, colds to mental illness. If the problems are not permanent, a weak sleep aid that you can get without a prescription would be perfect.
The sleep disorders should be consulted with the doctor.

The acute sleep disorders should not be ignored. If you have problems falling asleep and/or staying asleep or waking up early in the morning at least three times a week over a period of one to three months, this indicates a lack of sleep, i.e. insomnia, which affects about 6% of the population. Insomnia must be consulted with a doctor and treated with individual therapy, usually with the help of sleeping pills and lifestyle changes. (1)

What are the side effects of taking sleeping pills?

Taking strong sleeping pills can also have harmful side effects. Benzodiazepines, for example, should not be stopped abruptly, otherwise they lead to increased sleep disturbances, anxiety and restlessness. In older patients, benzodiazepines often have a paradoxical effect and lead to restlessness, confusion, drowsiness and impaired memory.

Because of the rapid development of dependence, they should only be used for as short a time as possible and special attention should be paid to causal treatment. (3)


Healthy sleep plays a very important role in our quality of life.
(Image source: / Vladislav Muslakov)

Often (in about ten per cent of those treated), taking the sleeping pill from the group of "non-benzodiazepines" leads to a bitter metallic taste in the mouth, dry mucous membranes in the mouth and impaired coordination. Occasionally, zopiclone causes side effects such as headache, dizziness, anxiety, nausea and confusion. With sudden discontinuation, withdrawal symptoms may occur, including muscle pain, headache, anxiety, tremors, nightmares, confusion and mild irritability.(4)

Melatonin tablets can have several side effects. On the one hand, if the dose is too high or taken at the wrong time, the wake-sleep rhythm can be disturbed. In addition, nightmares may occur if the melatonin sleeping pill is taken. Other possible melatonin side effects are stomach cramps, dizziness, headaches, irritability. However, such side effects occur only occasionally or rarely.(5)

With the herbal sleep aid preparations, no or very mild side effects occur, and it is mainly only in the case when the remedy has been incorrectly dosed or if one is allergic to existing substances. (5)

What are the alternatives to sleeping pills?

If you are not completely convinced of the benefits of sleeping pills, you can turn to other methods or home remedies that can help you sleep. Some experts believe that a small change in the daily routine is enough to guarantee healthy sleep:

  • Exercise - Physical activity makes us tired and allows us to sleep more deeply at night. However, one should not exercise just before bedtime because it is too stimulating. However, a short evening walk would be prescribed.
  • A hot bath - One to two hours before bedtime . Afterwards, the core temperature in the body goes down a little, which often has a sleep-inducing effect. Bath additives with lemon balm or valerian can enhance the effect.
  • Moist calf wrapping - This directs the blood circulation away from the head, which leads to tiredness.
  • A hot cup of milk or herbal tea.
  • Natural remedies - Lavender flowers, lemon balm leaves, valerian root, hop cones and passion flower herb are said to increase sleepiness. The smell of lavender has a calming effect. It is very important to note that, on average, the herbal active ingredients only take effect after two weeks of use. (7)

Decision: What types of sleep aid are there and which is right for you?

What are the characteristics of sleeping aid tablets and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Sleep aid tablets are the most commonly used sleep aid. They also prove to be the most effective, especially the prescription preparations. However, before you decide on the sleeping aid tablets, first try the home remedies for occasional insomnia. For acute problems, you should consult a doctor.

The over-the-counter sleep aid tablets are also effective, but as we have already mentioned, they are also called weak sleep aids because their effect is much weaker than psychotropic medications and they cannot really help with permanent symptoms. (3)

In the table below we have listed the advantages and disadvantages of sleep aid tablets:

  • High and fast efficacy, especially with prescription sleeping pills
  • Easy to take - sleep aid tablets prove best on the go
  • Dosage - even a small amount fixes the annoying discomfort.
  • Psychological dependence with the strong sleeping pills - the fear of no longer being able to fall asleep without these pills
  • Side effects, especially with the strong sleeping pills
  • Increasing the dose for psychotropic drugs over time.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of herbal sleep aids?

Herbal sleep aids are very popular. Mainly because of their availability and the fact that most of them do not require a prescription. An important advantage is also the negligible occurrence of side effects and the low likelihood of becoming dependent on them. However, unlike prescription sleeping pills, they have a much smaller effect.

In the table below we have listed the most important advantages and disadvantages of herbal sleep aids:

  • Availability - most herbal sleep aid supplements are over-the-counter
  • No or milder side effects
  • Taking herbal sleep aids is not addictive.
  • Less effective compared to prescription preparations
  • Often no medical expertise for the effect of herbal sleep aid preparations
  • A problem in the production of herbal medicines is the standardisation of the ingredients, so that the preparations available on the market are often of varying quality.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping aid sprays?

In the fight against insomnia, sprays have also proven their supportive effect. Different types of sprays can be found on the market, from calming preparations containing lavender oil to melatonin sprays that are supposed to facilitate sleep.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone that controls the human day-night rhythm. Our body produces the hormone itself, it is derived from serotonin. But melatonin is also available in tablet or spray form. In Germany, products containing melatonin are actually classified as prescription drugs. However, since many foreign manufacturers declare their preparations with up to five milligrams of melatonin as dietary foods, they are freely available, primarily via the internet. They are not only used to promote a healthy sleep rhythm: Melatonin is also said to have an anti-ageing effect because it is supposed to reduce the effect of free radicals. However, although products containing melatonin are usually well tolerated, side effects can occur. There are no studies on the risks of long-term use of melatonin preparations such as the sleep spray, so a medical consultation would be advisable. (8, 9)

In the table we have concentrated on the advantages and disadvantages of sprays with melatonin:

  • Availability - in the smaller dosages also easy to find on the internet
  • Besides sleep aid function, also anti-aging effect - melatonin is said to reduce the effect of free radicals.
  • Side effects - some users also report particularly vivid dreams and nightmares, headaches, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems or irritability
  • No medical studies to determine the effect and time of taking melatonin.

What are the characteristics of sleep aid teas and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

The sleep aid teas are characterised by their calming effect. They are among the weak sleep aids with fewer side effects. However, there are different types of teas that help you fall asleep. Their effect depends on which herbs they are made from. The following herbs are the most commonly used:

  • Camomile - Camomile tea is the classic tea for falling asleep. The flowers have a calming effect on the nerves, are said to alleviate anxiety and promote sleep.
  • Hops - Hops tea is a good tea for falling asleep. The flowers have a calming effect, can help you fall asleep and are generally said to have a balancing effect on the sleep-wake rhythm.
  • Valerian root - Valerian is probably one of the best-known sedatives and sleep aids. Valerian is said to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, improve the quality of sleep and thus ensure a refreshed feeling the next day.
  • Lavender - not only looks beautiful and smells wonderful, but also helps you fall asleep. The purple flowers have a calming effect and are also said to help with anxiety, general tension, inner restlessness and stress.
  • Lemon balm - the lemony-scented leaves are said to support the reduction of stress, alleviate insomnia and generally improve the quality of sleep.
  • Passion flower - supports sleep, through its anxiety-relieving and sleep-promoting effect. It is also said to help with nervous restlessness.


Strong sleeping pills can be addictive.
(Image source: Anastasia Dulgier)

In the evening, you should avoid stimulating teas such as black tea, green tea or mate tea. (8)

In the table below we have summarised the advantages and disadvantages of the good-night teas:

  • Mild calming and sleep-inducing effect.
  • Available without prescription.
  • Compared to the strong sleeping pills, much milder effect
  • Possible allergy to some herbs,

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate the sleeping aid preparations


Depending on the form the sleeping aid comes in, the dosage also differs.


The dosage of the strong sleeping aid tablets must be discussed and determined with the doctor. In principle, no more than 1 tablet should be taken before sleeping.

For the weak sleep aids, it all depends on what substance it is. The recommended dose of melatonin is 0.5 to 5 mg in the evening before going to bed, so one tablet is enough. For herbal sleeping pills, the dosage is always indicated on the packaging and is usually no more than one pill.


For melatonin sprays, no more than 1 mg is recommended, i.e. about eight sprays. With the other sprays, such as lavender spray, a small amount can be sprayed on the pillows, bed linen, in the air in the bedroom or directly on the body.

Some herbal sprays need to be sprayed under the tongue, depending on the composition. Usually about 3-6 sprays are enough.


How to prepare the tea is always written on the package. A certain amount of tea, or 1-2 bags, should be poured over boiling water. It all depends on the herbs.

Did you know that the beginnings of quantitative sleep research date back to 1862? At that time, Ernst Kohlschütter determined the depth of sleep and represented it graphically in relation to the duration of sleep. For his experiment, he used acoustic stimuli of different strengths and recorded the intensity at which his test subjects woke up.


The sleep-inducing preparations are available in various forms. Here too, the form in which you want to buy a sleeping pill plays a decisive role.

The over-the-counter tablets are available from 20 pieces up to even 250 pieces per package. This depends on the substance they contain and the dosage. With the larger quantities, you also have to consider the expiry date. In principle, you should not take sleeping pills for longer than two weeks, otherwise you have to consult your doctor.

The lavender sprays usually come in 100-150 ml, the melatonin sprays in 30 ml and other sleeping aid mouth sprays in about 20-30 ml sizes.

Side effects

As we mentioned earlier, the stronger the sleep aid, the more side effects. In principle, over-the-counter sleeping pills have fewer side effects than prescription drugs.

The stronger the sleeping pill, the worse the side effects.

Nevertheless, you should inform yourself before buying a sleeping aid and discuss your problems with your doctor or pharmacist. The lavender sprays or herbal teas are usually harmless, but you should follow the instructions for use carefully.

Trivia: Facts worth knowing about sleeping aids

When and for how long can I take sleeping pills?

Sleeping pills can only be taken for a limited time. The intake of prescription drugs must be determined exactly with the doctor. In this case, the discontinuation of the sleeping pill must also be discussed and carried out in detail.

The use of sleeping pills should only be short-term and used as a supportive measure in combating the cause. It is advantageous to set a time limit before starting to take the medication, which should not be longer than 3-4 weeks away and should not be exceeded under any circumstances. After an appropriate quality of sleep has been achieved, the medication is gradually discontinued - i.e. not immediately, but gradually. (3)

What is the shelf life of the sleeping aid preparations?

The shelf life depends on the type of product. Of course, herbal remedies have a much shorter shelf life than sleeping pills with chemical active ingredients. We also recommend that you simply read the description and instructions of the product. What you also have to pay attention to is the disposal of the expired medication. In Germany, there is even a special website where you can find useful tips and disposal points. (10, 11)

Mario ReichterApotheker

The shelf life of medicines is not the same as that of food, for example. Bread, fish or meat are labelled with a best-before date. You can continue to use them - as long as they are not mouldy or contaminated with salmonella - for a few days after the best-before date has expired. Medicines, on the other hand, have a real expiry date. The shelf life mostly depends on the dosage form. Tablets last between two and three years, while ointments, creams and gels only last three to six months and juices only a few days after opening. (Source:

Do sleep aid products have an effect on daily life?

As we have already mentioned, some sleep aid products have many side effects that could affect your daily life. Therefore, it is very important to take the sleeping pills only for a short, limited time, preferably after consulting a doctor. (2, 3)

What can have a strong impact on daily life is the lack of sleep itself. Little sleep is unhealthy and can even have a negative effect on lifespan. Stress researchers at Stockholm University believe so, according to a study they published in the Journal of Sleep Research: People who sleep less than five hours a night throughout the week have an increased risk of dying. According to the scientists, however, this can be counteracted by sleeping in on days off.(12)

Image source: maridav /

References (12)

1. Bedeutung und Auswirkung des Schlafens auf unseres täglichen Leben. Andrea Blank-Koppenleitner, 2018.

2. In: Mit psychischer Krankheit in der Familie leben. Rat und Hilfe für Angehörige. Schlafmitteln. Nils Greve, 2014.

3. , Aus-und Nebenwirkungen von der Einahme von Einschlaf Präparaten. Dr. Erich Mayer-Fally (Erstautor), OA.Univ.Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lalouschek (2015)

4. Anwendung, Wirkung und Nebenwirkungen. Lisa Hein (2017)

5. Wirkungsweise, Anwendung, Nebenwirkugen. Benjamin Clanner-Engelshofen (2017)

6. Einnahme und Nebenwirkungen Kathrin Mehner (2017)

7. Gesunder Schlaf; Einschlafhilfe; Hausmittel.

8. Sorten von Einschlafentees und deren Wirkung. Nadine Hüttenrauch (2019)

9. CBD als Geheimtipp in dem Kamp gegen Schlafstörungen. Krankenkasse Zentrale (2020).

10. Ablaufdatum bei den Medikamenten. Wie lange ist ein Medikament haltbar. Was soll man mit den ablaufenden Medikamenten tun. Judith Pohl, Nina Wieneke (2017)

11. Wie man die Arzneimittel richtig entsorgen kann. (2017)

12. Schlafmangel. Warum Schlaf so wichtig ist. Der Schlaf beeinflusst das Lebendauer. (2018)

Ursachen von Schlafstörungen.
Bedeutung und Auswirkung des Schlafens auf unseres täglichen Leben. Andrea Blank-Koppenleitner, 2018.
Go to source
Psychopharmaka – Welche gibt es und wie wirken sie?
In: Mit psychischer Krankheit in der Familie leben. Rat und Hilfe für Angehörige. Schlafmitteln. Nils Greve, 2014.
Go to source
Arten von Schlafmitteln
, Aus-und Nebenwirkungen von der Einahme von Einschlaf Präparaten. Dr. Erich Mayer-Fally (Erstautor), OA.Univ.Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lalouschek (2015)
Go to source
Anwendung, Wirkung und Nebenwirkungen. Lisa Hein (2017)
Go to source
Wirkungsweise, Anwendung, Nebenwirkugen. Benjamin Clanner-Engelshofen (2017)
Go to source
Einnahme und Nebenwirkungen Kathrin Mehner (2017)
Go to source
Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (2019)
Gesunder Schlaf; Einschlafhilfe; Hausmittel.
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Entspannt durch die Nacht: Gute-Nacht-Tees zum Einschlafen
Sorten von Einschlafentees und deren Wirkung. Nadine Hüttenrauch (2019)
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CBD bei Schlafstörungen – zurück in den gesunden Schlaf
CBD als Geheimtipp in dem Kamp gegen Schlafstörungen. Krankenkasse Zentrale (2020).
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Medikament abgelaufen - und was jetzt?
Ablaufdatum bei den Medikamenten. Wie lange ist ein Medikament haltbar. Was soll man mit den ablaufenden Medikamenten tun. Judith Pohl, Nina Wieneke (2017)
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Arzneimittel-Entsorgung richtig gemacht!
Wie man die Arzneimittel richtig entsorgen kann. (2017)
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Schwedische Forscher sicher: Wochenend-Ausschläfer leben länger
Schlafmangel. Warum Schlaf so wichtig ist. Der Schlaf beeinflusst das Lebendauer. (2018)
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