In this blog series, I’m covering the types of sleeping pills on the market, how sleeping pills work, and what you can expect if you take them. Today, we’ll explore over-the-counter sleep aids, or OTC sleep aids, and what they can do for you.
Like any sleeping pill, OTC sleeping pills should be used with caution. Occasional sleep problems can be safely self-treated with an over-the-counter drug, but any sort of recurring insomnia should be discussed with your doctor. Over the counter sleeping pills may not be able to treat the root of your problem like prescription drugs could.
How Do OTC Sleeping Pills Work?
Most over-the-counter sleep aids have an antihistamine as an active ingredient. The most commonly used is diphenhydramine, which is found in Excedrin PM, Tylenol PM, Nytol, and the new ZZZquil, among others. Dyphenhydramine is most commonly taken for allergy symptoms but has the common side effect of inducing drowsiness through a sedative effect.
Diphenhydramine can cause pronounced drowsiness the next morning and may not help the taker get quality sleep. It has also been known to cause more troublesome side effects in the elderly, including increased confusion or difficulty urinating. Diphenhydramine is best used for occasional, mild insomnia over short periods of time, and should not be taken continuously for long periods without a doctor’s involvement.
Use OTC Sleep Aids With Care.
In some cases, changes in your sleep habits or establishing a regular sleep pattern is all it takes to rectify sleep problems. In these cases, popping a pill (prescription or otherwise) won’t be enough to fix your sleep issues. If you suffer from regular or repeated insomnia over long periods, talking to a doctor or medical professional is the best path to a good night’s rest.