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Melatonin vs Benadryl: Should You Go for a Natural or Artificial Sleeping Aid?

Many people all over the world suffer from sleeping problems. If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, then you’re not alone. There are hundreds of different sleeping pills available, but most of them either don’t work or have bad side effects. So you wouldn’t want to mess with them. In this article we’ll discuss 2 of the most-commonly sleeping aids: melatonin vs diphenhydramine (benadryl)…

We’ll list the pluses and the minuses of each and tell you which one you should take for different cases. After all, people are different and what works well for you might not work as well for the next person:

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and unqualified to give medical advice. This site is about investing in quality of sleep, and there are many lifestyle fixes you can do for that. I recommend you first focus on getting your sleeping habits in order before you get sleeping tablets. Maybe even see if your mattress is keeping your from sleeping well.

However, I also recognize that some people want/need a quick solution, so it’s better to make the right decision and avoid pitfalls. Please consult your doctor before taking either melatonin or diphenhydramine. Also, these substances might be illegal in the country where you live. Please don’t take them in that case.

Melatonin vs Diphenhydramine (benadryl)

Alright, let’s get started. Which of these 2 chemicals works better for introducing sleep? Here’s a spoiler. They both work. Many people all over the world use melatonin or diphenhydramine to fall asleep at night and get restful sleep. That can be for a variety of reasons:

Some may not be able to fall asleep naturally. Others might use them to stay asleep. And some might just enjoy how they wake up refreshed after a good night of sleep. So it’s not a matter of what works and what doesn’t – but more a matter of preferences (and in some way – risk that you’re willing to take).

melatonin sleep facts
10 MG of Natrol Melatonin can help you fall asleep!

Chemistry of melatonin vs diphenhydramine

We’ll start with the chemistry of these 2 chemicals. Why is this important? Because melatonin (C13H16N2O2) is actually a hormone that is naturally produced in the body. But diphenhydramine (C17H21NO) on the other hand is an antihistamine. It was discovered in 1943 and is a substance that is unnatural to the body.

Now, with melatonin the risks have been mapped long ago. There are very few to none. If you take it regularly for a short period of time (3-12 months), there are virtually no side effects. Longer use, however, may cause your body to down regulate its own natural production of the hormone.

Check out this helpful video how melatonin will help you sleep (interview with Sleep Expert Matthew Walker, author of the best selling book “Why We Sleep“)

Diphenhydramine on the other hand is a drug that is being used against a wide variety of disorders (such as insomnia, anxiety, allergies, movement disorders and nausea), and can cause adverse reactions. It’s also possible to overdose on the drug, which is a magnitude easier to do with diphenhydramine vs melatonin.

It’s estimated that on average, users will fall asleep within 30 minutes of taking Benadryl.

Check out this video for more interesting facts about the chemistry behind diphenhydramine:

So actually we’re comparing a natural sleeping aid versus a chemical one. And just like with most natural vs chemical conflicts, there are a couple of things you need to take into account. Let’s continue with the effectiveness of each of these sleeping aids.

Which one works better for sleep?

We found out that both melatonin and diphenhydramine work for getting better sleep. But which one works better? I’d say that diphenhydramine works better to induce sleep, and melatonin is more of a subtler help. Benadryl actually sedates you and turns off your brain, whereas melatonin will nudge your body and brain into feeling more sleepy naturally.

Put it the other way: with benadryl you will get sleepy no matter what. And it will be very difficult for you to not fall asleep. The drug basically does all the work for you.

With melatonin, you will find yourself getting more and more relaxed, which will make it easier for you to fall asleep and get a good night rest. However, if you are very anxious or stimulating yourself in another way (playing video games, watching TV, blue light from screens etc.), you might still not fall asleep.

This behaviour is not recommended, and anyone who’s fighting insomnia would do better to not watch TV or play video games before going to bed.

Which is better in the long-term?

Now that you’ve got a quick update of how melatonin vs diphenhydramine works, let’s discuss the long-term effects. After all, you’re probably not looking for a sleeping aid to take only once. If you’re suffering from insomnia, this is something you’ll want to be taking every night in order to fall asleep well and lead a normal life…

Since melatonin is the natural hormone that induces sleep, it’s safer to take it on a long-term base vs diphenhydramine (benadryl). On the other hand, the effect is more subtle, and if you’re suffering from a bad case of insomnia, benadryl might be more effective.

However, there is a higher chance of dependency in the case of benadryl vs melatonin. And if you’re the type of person who’s susceptible to that – then it might be smarter to take melatonin.

Melatonin is the better option if you’re planning to take sleeping aid for a longer period of time. Studies have shown that it is safe to take for periods from 3-12 months. However, benadryl has a stronger effect. And you might find that melatonin is too subtle for you. In that case benadryl would be better, since it works.

I recommend you to try out melatonin first, since it is the more natural option. And if it doesn’t work – then try out diphenhydramine (benadryl).

Benadryl possible side effects

As stated before, benadryl can have side effects. Whereas with melatonin, you can basically take as much as possible without adverse effects (although it might be, in reverse, less effective).

Here’s the list of possible diphenhydramine side effects (source: wikipedia)

  • Dysphoria
  • Hallucinations (auditory, visual, etc.)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Severe dizziness
  • Abnormal speech (inaudibility, forced speech, etc.)
  • Flushed skin
  • Severe mouth and throat dryness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Inability to urinate
  • Vomiting
  • Acute megacolon
  • Motor disturbances
  • Anxiety/nervousness
  • Disorientation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Delirium
  • Coma
  • Death

As you can see, it’s not a good idea to play around with diphenhydramine. If you’re going to take it, please be sure to follow the instructions on the package.

Benadryl legal status:

Benadryl is available as OTC medication. So it’s legal to have with you. Do watch out with flying though: it’s illegal in Zambia. Even the chances of you flying there aren’t too high, this is important to notice. As Americans have been detained there before for having benadryl with them.

The U.S. government deems benadryl to have limited abuse potential, limited euphoric effects, but potentially serious side effects. That’s why every product on the market that contains benadryl needs to show that clearly on the package.

Here’s what to base the melatonin vs diphenhydramine decision on:

For all of you reading now who are wondering whether it’s better for you to take melatonin or diphenhydramine, I have added this short section that will make it clearer what the right supplement for you will be…

So if you’re doubting between melatonin vs diphenhydramine, then I highly recommend you read the following sections. Each question discusses a specific part that will help you find the right solution:

Question 1: What is your sleeping problem?

The first thing you need to be aware of is what your exact sleeping problem is. In the previous sections we talked about the different ways that melatonin and diphenhydramine work. So it is only natural, that each of these supplements work better for a different type of sleeping problem.

  • Do you experience extreme stress (at night), which makes it very difficult for you to fall asleep? Then it might be better to go for diphenhydramine, because it has a stronger effect.
  • Are you having slight troubles falling asleep at night, and do you feel that all you need is a small extra push so that your body falls asleep better? Then try melatonin.
  • Are you suffering from insomnia, and can you still not fall asleep after having worked on your sleep hygiene ( which is: the right nutrition, a good mattress, and no blue light before going to bed)? If you’ve done everything you can in your means – but you still can’t fall asleep, you can try diphenhydramine.

Question 2: What’s your risk tolerance?

Another thing that is of vital importance when you’re making a decision between melatonin vs diphenhydramine is your risk tolerance. The reason that I am saying this is because diphenhydramine is a more harsh drug on your body. Whereas melatonin is a regular supplement that is already available in your body.

So if you’re unsure what to take it’s a better decision to go with melatonin. After all, you do not want to be putting unnecessary stress onto your body. Even if you want to fall asleep better. Diphenhydramine will make you pass out, but it does not necessarily promote restful sleep.

Can you take both melatonin AND benadryl?

Another common question is whether you can take both melatonin and benadryl at the same time. And if this is more effective than taking either one.

Let’s get this clear from the start: it is not recommended to take both melatonin and benadryl.

The reason for this is because they both work through different mechanisms (melatonin restores your natural sleep cycle – benadryl changes it).

Another reason that they don’t combine is since they both can make you feel more drowsy, the effect can be too much. It’s very possible that you’ll experience a sort of *hangover* effect, where you’ll still be drowsy and groggy in the morning. 

If you’re on this page, I assume you’re looking for better sleep, right? Combining both melatonin and benadryl might make you more drowsy at night, but it’s not a good thing to do for better sleep quality.

If you’re suffering from severe insomnia, I highly recommend you follow the plan below. This will help you a lot to become more clear what the best course of action is for you…

Here’s what I recommend you try out if you’re suffering from insomnia:

Alright, in order to clear everything up for you, I have written a special plan here that you can follow if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night. Or if you’re experiencing other sleep-related problems, you can try out these recommendations to help you sleep better and wake up with more energy in the morning. Just follow the guidelines listed below to help you make a better choice between melatonin vs Diphenhydramine…

Melatonin vs Diphenhydramine guidelines

  1. If you’re suffering from sleep problems, the first thing that you should do is check your sleep hygiene. Are you eating a healthy balanced diet? Or are you eating unhealthy fatty dinners and finishing it off with an Espresso? There are a lot of things that you could be doing that potentially harm your sleep – and it is important that you fix this, before you start taking any drugs (such as Diphenhydramine) as a Band-Aid for these problems. Check out this article for more information on how to create a good sleep hygiene for yourself.
  2. After you’ve got the sleeping hygiene part handled – and you’re still experiencing problems falling asleep at night? Then this is a good moment to start looking for potential supplements  that will help you get better refreshing sleep.
  3. The best thing to do now is to try out a high quality melatonin supplement. This is because it is less invasive than Diphenhydramine. After all, melatonin is a natural hormone that is already produced in your body.
  4. Try out this melatonin supplement for at least three weeks and see if it makes a difference in your sleep. Take it about an hour before you want to go to bed, and do not exceed the recommended dosage.
  5. If you found that melatonin does not work for you, and you have the right sleep hygiene in your lifestyle. Only in this case it might be that you need to look for something more stronger such as Diphenhydramine. You can order a quality benadryl supplement here. And if you’re taking it, be sure to follow the instructions as written in the drug manual.

Final verdict melatonin vs diphenhydramine

Let’s do a quick summary. Both melatonin and benadryl work. but melatonin is the natural variant of these sleeping aids. And benadryl is the stronger chemical variant:

So it all depends on what you prefer. Do you want to take the natural route without much risk? Then take melatonin.

Do you have a severe case of insomnia and you just want to fall asleep? Then benadryl might be the right option for you.

In the end, I urge you to take a good look at your sleeping problems and focus on natural solutions, such as lifestyle tips in order to get better sleep. However, this might not be for everyone – and in that case you can take melatonin or diphenhydramine. And even though I myself don’t have problems with falling asleep (anymore), I still occasionally take a tab of melatonin before going to bed if I really need a good night of sleep.

I hope this article about melatonin vs diphenhydramine has helped you a lot to see which of these two sleep aids can help you solve your sleeping problem. If there’s anything that you want more clearly explained, or you have some other questions about any of the information on this page, please leave a comment.

P.S. Still having trouble deciding between melatonin and benadryl? Melatonin is the better option in the long run. Order a bottle of melatonin now!

By Adrianus

Since childhood I've tried hundreds of little experiments to feel better, learn faster and perform higher (e.g. supplements, sports, psychological tricks, sleep and wacky diets).
After I graduated university in 2016, I basically found that sleep was the #1 factor to improve every aspect of life.
Bad sleep = bad life. I started SleepInvestor in 2017 to share my experiments and thoughts about sleep.

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