Pros: Works well, helps achieve nice quality sleep. Relaxing. Claims to be non-habit-forming.
Cons: You might still be a little drowsy the next day. Could be addictive.
Like most people, from time to time I have trouble sleeping. Of course the best remedy for this is getting some good old fashioned exercise during the day and not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, or sipping a glass of warm milk or tea, but for the times when those either don't happen or aren't working, I'd been looking for a quality sleep aid that wasn't overpowering or addictive.
For me, Unisom fits the bill.
Through the years, I've tried different over-the-counter products here and there to help encourage the occasionally elusive deep sleep, including Nytol, Tylenol PM, melatonin, Benadryl, and even Nyquil. I also gave the Rx sleep aid Ambien a try once when my doctor was handing out samples. Although I had some success with Nytol and Tylenol PM, I didn't like the way they made me feel as their effects were coming on. Like, one minute you're watching TV and the next minute you feel like someone slipped you a mickey. I guess in general I don't like taking anything that feels like I don't have control over it - like if something happened, and I needed to pop back awake momentarily, I don't like something that makes me feel so dopey that resistance would be futile. My experience with Ambien was even worse, and after that I pretty much gave up on trying sleep aids. I just accepted that there were some days where I was just going to be tired.
But a few months ago, during a particularly annoying bout of mild insomnia, I saw these on the shelf and decided to give them a try. I'd seen their commercials about how they were mild, fast, and non-addictive. So on a whim I bought them - my drug store only carried the 48-pack, but it was on sale for about $8. That night I gave them a try.
My first impression of the Unisom Sleep Tabs was how surprisingly small they were. They are little light blue ovals that weigh almost nothing, and are about the size of two grains of rice. There is a bar down the middle, which makes it easy and convenient to break the pill in half if you want to try half a dose. The pills are easy to swallow, despite the fact that they do not have a smooth coating - they are a teeny bit chalky - but since they are so small I've never had any difficulty.
The directions say to take 30 minutes before bedtime, and warn not to take this product if you have any breathing problem, glaucoma, or enlarged prostate. In addition of course you should avoid alcohol while taking this.
My experience: The first time I took it, I started with half a pill, which didn't do much, but I wanted to try a night with just half, so I stuck it out. I was moderately disappointed with the results.
The next night, though, I took the whole thing and had a different experience. In about an hour after taking one, I started feeling relaxed and calm. Nice! And then a slow wave of drowsiness enveloped me, and before I knew it I was drifting off to sleepyville. I slept for a solid 8 hours without batting an eye. The next day, when I first woke up, I felt great. But, within about an hour or two, that same sweet drowsiness that I'd so much appreciated the night before seemed to be creeping back. By 10:30 a.m., about 2.5 hours after waking up and starting my day, I was feeling ready for a nap. Luckily it was a weekend, and by noon I had fallen asleep on the patio in a comfy lawn chair. I slept for an hour, but it was just what I needed, since I'd missed a few hours of snooze time that week. After that, although I still felt oddly relaxed, which, hey, is not a bad thing, I felt well-rested and happy that my insomnia had taken a hike.
I have to say after a few months of using them here and there, I really like this product. I love the fact that they are definitely not overpowering. There have been a few times where I've had to snap to in the middle of the night, when my cat was beating up a lizard or leaving me a hairball on the carpet, and I didn't feel uncontrollably groggy to the point that I couldn't deal with the situation.
I will note that there are some days when after taking them I do still feel tired and/or relaxed for the whole day, so that might not be a plus to people who are neurosurgeons or who have jobs where their absolute immaculate attention to detail is required.
What's really remarkable about this product, is that after taking it, even just one time, sometimes I notice that the next night I just automatically go to bed on time without any trouble. It almost seems like it helps to readjust your clock. Typically for me, after struggling with insomnia it takes a few days or even a week to get back on track, but I've found this product helpful in that process.
I also love the gentle effect of this product. It does not make you feel like someone clocked you over the head with a frying pan, or suddenly shut the lights out. It is a gradual sleepiness, which is great.
Tips for use:
I recommend starting with a half a pill, but if you don't feel the effect within an hour, go ahead and take the second half. I also would recommend taking it for the first time on a weekend, if you can, so that you can evaluate the way you feel the next day. For me, the occasional semi-groggy-but-yet-happy state the day after I take one of these is not unbearable, or even a real downside, ;o).
If you're taking other meds, give a quick call to your pharmacist to make sure nothing you're on will have an interaction with Unisom, as the back of the package is nothing but vague on this subject, warning only that you should call your pharmacist or ask your doctor before taking it if you are on *any* other medications.
Also, regarding the time frame of when to take this pill, I have found that the 30-minute guideline the box gives you is most effective when you're already tired. If you're wide awake or especially stressed, give yourself an hour for this to work, sometimes it's taken me even two hours.
The active ingredient in this pill is doxylamine succinate, an antihistamine. Note that this is a different ingredient than what's in the Unisom Maximum Strength Softgels. But from what I've read online, this actually seems to be the better product.
And although the commercials have always noted that this pill is non-habit-forming, I suspect that it may be addictive for some people. And, its non-habit-forming quality is not advertised on the box - although I'm quite sure I think it used to be. However it is mentioned on the manufacturer's website FAQ's. (http://www.chattem.com/qna/UnisomFAQ.asp)
All in all this is a product I would definitely recommend. Even if you do feel a wee bit groggy the next day (which for me only happens sometimes) in my opinion it's still way better than feeling stressed and frazzled from sleep deprivation. Sweet dreams, everyone.