“Because sleep is a beautiful thing,” Proctor & Gamble — makers of Vicks Nyquil — designed Zzzquil. This “non-habit-forming sleep-aid” is supposed to provide relief from occasional sleeplessness and improve sleep quality.
There are prescription sleep aids and natural sleep aids, but as an over-the-counter (OTC) product, Zzzquil falls right in the middle. Should you buy it or are there better options to choose from? Let’s find out…
How Is This Sleep Aid Different?
Released in June 2012, Zzzquil is different than Nyquil because it doesn’t relieve pain and improve sleep. Rather, it’s designed solely for mild insomnia relief.
Zzzquil is different than natural sleep aids because its key ingredient is a synthetic chemical. However, the chemical isn’t a controlled substance, so this is not a prescription sleep aid. It’s sold online and in-stores to all consumers.
What Is the Active Ingredient?
The body naturally produces histamine, which keeps you alert and awake. Zzzquil contains diphenhydramine HCI, which blocks histamine and causes drowsiness. Histamine also triggers allergic reactions, so diphenhydramine HCI relieves allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itching eyes.
The FDA mandated amount is no more than 50 mg diphenhydramine HCI. Zzzquil Liquid contains 50 mg per serving and Zzzquil LiquiCaps provide 25 mg per capsule.
There are many other OTC sleep aids that use diphenhydramine HCI as the main ingredient including:
• Tylenol Simply Sleep
Each product contains 50 mg diphenhydramine HCI.
• FDA-approved ingredient
• Recommended dosage
Natural sleep aids are not regulated by the FDA and neither are their ingredients. This is a disadvantage if manufacturers don’t select safe ingredients and dosages. And sometimes, there’s not enough research to show which ingredients and dosages are safe.
Zzzquil contains an FDA-approved ingredient. That doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe for everyone, but does mean the ingredient is tested and regulated. So, consumers know exactly what they’re getting when they buy this sleep aid.
Zzzquil uses the dosage the FDA says is safe and effective.
Unlike expensive prescription sleep aids, Zzzquil is affordable. See pricing in the “Where to Buy” section below.
• High risk for tolerance
• May cause side effects
• Not right for everyone
Diphenhydramine HCI is not habit-forming or dangerous, but it is easy to develop a tolerance towards. Researchers found that when people took 50 mg diphenhydramine HCI for 3 consecutive days, on the 3rd day it was no more effective than a placebo.
That is why Proctor & Gamble recommends using Zzzquil only for “occasional sleeplessness.” If you have ongoing insomnia, look into other options; for example, prescription or natural sleep aids.
Zzzquil may cause the following side effects:
• Stomach upset
• Blurred vision
• Dry mouth/nose/throat
If these side effects persist or become worse, stop using the product and talk to your doctor. Also, make sure to use the sleep aid exactly as directed.
Children and older adults are more sensitive to diphenhydramine, so they are more likely to experience side effects. Children under age 12 should not use Zzzquil. Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people with medical conditions should talk to a doctor before using it.
Directions for Use
Adults and children over age 12 should take 30 mL (2 tablespoons) Zzzquil Liquid before bedtime. The recommended dosage for Zzzquil LiquiCaps is 2 capsules before bedtime.
Do not take more than 30 mL or 2 capsules in 24 hours.
Avoid combining Zzzquil with other antihistamines, nighttime cold/flu products, alcohol, or products containing diphenhydramine HCI.
Where to Buy
Zzzquil Liquid containers hold 6 fl. oz. and 12 fl. oz., or you can purchase a pack with two 12 fl. oz. containers. Zzzquil LiquiCaps containers have 12, 24, or 48 capsules.
The OTC sleep aid is sold online and in most pharmacies; including Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, and Target. You don’t need a prescription. Here are the prices listed online:
• 6 fl. oz. or 12 capsules – $5.99
• 12 fl. oz. or 24 capsules – $9.99
• Two 12 fl. oz. or 48 capsules – $17.99
• 6 fl. oz. or 12 capsules – $4.49
• 12 fl. oz. or 24 capsules – $7.34
• Two 12 fl. oz. or 48 capsules – $11.24
Walmart.com has lower prices than Walgreens.com, but CVS.com beats both sites’ prices.
Is Zzzquil Worth Buying?
If you need relief from temporary sleep problems, Zzzquil is an effective solution. It contains an FDA-approved sedative in the recommended amount. The product is safe for most people when used as directed. However, it’s not safe for some people and may cause side effects.
Zzzquil is very affordable and is made by a reputable company. I think it’s worth trying. But, if you need a stronger solution, talk to your doctor about prescription sleep aids. Or, if you want a natural solution for sleep troubles, look into the best natural sleep aids.
 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rulemaking History for OTC Nighttime Sleep-Aid Drug Products. 2009.
 Russo, RM, VJ Gururaj, and JE Allen. “The effectiveness of diphenhydramine HCI in pediatric sleep disorders.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 16.5-6 (1976): 284-8.
 Richardson, GS, TA Roehrs, et al. “Tolerance to daytime sedative effects of H1 antihistamines.” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 22.5 (2002): 511-5.