If you're suffering from a lack of sleep, sometimes you need a way to help yourself shut your brain down and rest. In these cases, it can be incredibly useful to find an over-the-counter sleep aid. However, the options available can be overwhelming. To learn all you need to know about over-the-counter sleep aids, keep reading.
What Options Exist?
There are often dozens of different sleep aids available at any given pharmacy, but most of them contain one of three active ingredients.
Diphenhydramine. This sedating chemical is also an antihistamine. It is the active ingredient in many allergy medications, and it is also present in nighttime pain relievers. However, it can cause side effects like daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, or blurred vision, as well as constipation and urinary difficulties.
Doxylamine succinate. Like diphenhydramine, doxylamine succinate is an antihistamine as well as a sedative. It can also be found in a number of medications intended for nighttime use for pain or colds. It also has similar side effects.
When Should I Take OTC Sleep Aids?
Generally, people choose to take OTC sleep aids after a few nights of bad sleep. Nobody can tell you that you need to take a sleep aid; the decision is up to you. However, many people like to take something to improve their sleep in order to catch up on the rest they've been missing.
Taking OTC sleep aids can also help your body to relearn a sleep schedule. When you begin to miss out on a lot of sleep, your body may try to adjust to a new sleeping pattern. Using sleep aids to force yourself to fall asleep and wake up at certain times can help your body begin to get used to a new schedule.
When Should I See a Doctor?
It can be a good idea to consult a doctor before beginning to use OTC sleep aids even if your sleep has not been severely impacted. A doctor can help you make sure that you will not be causing a medical interaction between two drugs or impacting your health in other ways.
Sleep aids should not be taken for two weeks or more. These medications are not designed for long-term use, and are only meant to be taken for up to a few nights in a row in order to help minor sleep issues. If you continue having sleep issues for longer than two weeks, you should consult a doctor for prescribed medication.
Be sure to note that these drugs all have contraindications, and that anybody with the medical conditions that may interact with these drugs should avoid these OTC sleep aids and consult a doctor for targeted treatment if needed.
If you want to learn more about how to reduce sleeping problems, read about the best exercises for insomnia.
- Mayo Clinic. (2016). Sleep aids: The options. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-aids/art-20047860?pg=2
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2011). Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf
- Olson, E.J. (2016). Is it OK to use over-the-counter antihistamines to treat insomnia? I'd like to avoid prescription sleep aids. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sleep-aids/faq-20058393