Comment: Pharmacies should to wake up to the sleep category

Published on: 15 September 2017


Insomnia and the management of problems with poor quality sleep is just one of the many OTC Categories in community pharmacy that deserve a closer look, says PAGB’s John Smith


“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep,” said Homer, the Greek poet. But in our modern lives it seems that the time for sleep is getting is shorter and shorter. Nearly half of the UK’s population have trouble sleeping, according to The Sleep Council, and with many of us addicted to checking our phones and tablets until the early hours of the morning, this probably comes as no surprise.

Sleep loss and insomnia can be an emotional subject with people waking up feeling irritated and upset at the fact they haven’t been able to recuperate properly overnight. For some this can become a vicious cycle and the stress of not being able to sleep can add to the list of reasons and worries that are keeping them awake in the first place. People may first turn to their family and friends for help, but if they are still struggling to sleep, they may seek advice from pharmacy. The sleep category is showing a 0.8% increase compared to this time last year and is currently valued at over £18 million (Nielsen data).

As well as traditional herbal remedies, pharmacists can recommend sleep medicines containing antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine. Pharmacy staff can take the time to speak to people requesting this medication and offer their expert advice. Some people could feel slightly nervous about taking a medicine and how to use it, so it’s vital to offer reassurance and go through the on-pack instructions and patient information leaflet with them carefully so they understand dosage instructions.

It’s also good idea to ask them about their lifestyle so that you can offer advice to help improve their sleeping habits. The Sleep Council ( has some great resources.

As well as increasing sales within the sleep category, a customer who is having trouble sleeping can also provide a good opportunity to cross sell and grow other OTC categories. If someone comes in to your pharmacy after suffering from a bad night’s sleep, they could have sore or dry eyes that could benefit from soothing eye drops, or a headache that requires some painkillers.

The sleep category is just one example of how putting your customer at the heart of your business and taking the time to understand their needs can be a win-win situation, where you find a solution to their problem and you build the trust that will bring them back the next time they need advice.


This column first appeared in P3 magazine.