If You Take This Common Sleep Drug, Stop Now, Says New Study

When you have a hard time falling asleep, it will take almost anything to help you sleep. However, just because a drug can help you sleep doesn’t necessarily mean that you should take it for that purpose. A recent study noted that a common drug often used to help people fall asleep can actually have significant adverse side effects. Read on to find out which popular drug you should stop taking to help you sleep and which drug might keep you awake – if you can’t sleep, this over-the-counter drug could be the reason, experts say.

Person taking pill out of medicine blister in hand
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As an April 6 article from McMaster University published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association He noted, “Antihistamines are among the most frequently and incorrectly used drugs in the world.” While antihistamines are recommended to treat symptoms of hay fever and hives, they have other off-label uses, including for insomnia, according to the document. Benadryl, ZzzQuil, Tylenol PM, Dramamine, Unisom, and many other over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medications include antihistamines. The recent McMaster University article made a case for avoiding using these drugs to treat anything other than hay fever or hives.

Harvard University reported that in 2017, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) officially recommended against treating chronic insomnia with common over-the-counter antihistamine-based medications due to a lack of evidence for their efficacy or safety. “There are definitely concerns about its risks,” he said. Suzanne Bertisch, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an article on the university’s website. And to find out more potential dangers in your medicine cabinet, the FDA just issued a new warning on these over-the-counter pain relievers.

Middle-aged woman with fatigue
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Although your over-the-counter antihistamine medicine may work and help you fall asleep faster, it could cause adverse effects. The McMaster University article noted that antihistamines can affect cognitive functions, such as school or work performance, and an overdose can even lead to death. According to the Baylor College of Medicine, “Antihistamines have side effects that include altered mental status, urinary retention, and dry mouth. While these side effects are generally mild and well tolerated in young patients with no other medical problems, they can pose a risk. , especially for the elderly. “

Also, the antihistamines you are taking to improve your sleep can ultimately have the opposite effect. “The use of antihistamines can lead to sleepwalking and other parasomnias. That can definitely happen with Benadryl as with other hypnotic agents like Ambien,” assistant professor of medicine Phillip alapat, MD, said in an article on the Baylor College of Medicine website. Although antihistamines can help you fall asleep, the overall quality of sleep is often not very good, and the medication has its limits. “Using Benadryl or any antihistamine for sleep has no long-term benefit,” Alapat continued. “Most people develop tolerance very quickly.” And to make sure you’re safe, if you’re taking Tylenol with this, your liver is in danger, experts say.

Young woman pouring pills from bottle close up.  Stressed millennial student holding aspirin analgesic antidepressant antibiotic for pain relief, feeling unhealthy at home or office.

However, not all antihistamines are the same. The McMaster University paper noted that first-generation antihistamines are the ones to be concerned about, while the newer antihistamines are generally safer. Benadryl, ZzzQuil, Tylenol PM, Dramamine, Unisom, and many over-the-counter sleep medications contain first-generation antihistamines, while allergy medications like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra, on the other hand, contain second-generation antihistamines.

The McMaster University article noted that next-generation antihistamines are safer and at the same time more effective and just as affordable as first-generation antihistamines. The newer antihistamines also have fewer side effects, such as drowsiness, which means they probably wouldn’t help you fall asleep. And to get more helpful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Photo of a young man taking medication while standing at home during the day.

Antihistamines are also used off-label to treat asthma, eczema, and coughs, but they’re not for that. “People need to rethink what they store in their home cabinets as allergy medications, what hospitals keep on the formulary, and what legislators recommend. The message must be spread,” said the allergy expert and clinician at the University of McMaster. Derek Chu it said in a statement.

“Antihistamines are best used to relieve symptoms of hay fever and hives, but not for asthma, eczema, cough or insomnia,” the statement concluded. So next time you find yourself reaching for that bottle of Benadryl as a panacea, think again. And for more advice on medications you should and shouldn’t take, this is the time to take Tylenol instead of Advil, doctors say.

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