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Understanding OTC Sleep Aid Options

Understanding OTC Sleep Aid Options

Considering an over-the-counter sleep aid is a common choice to solve our problems with sleep. But, before rushing out the pharmacy section, we should understand the medication we are looking to for help.

According to CNN, while OTC sleep aids can be a short-term solution for an occasional sleepless night, most of them contain antihistamine. We develop a tolerance for their sedative properties very quickly, making OTC ineffective for a long-term goal.

Some of those medications even can make you feel groggy, disoriented and sick the next day– leaving you with a hangover effect. There are also other dangers involved with taking OTC sleep medication while on another medication regiment. Mixing drugs can have unforeseen and dangerous effects on your body.

Common choices of OTC sleep medications include:

Diphenhydramine (Unisom sleep, Benadryl) and Doxylamine (Unisom SleepTabs):

Both are sedating antihistamines with the side effects including daytime drowsiness, dizziness and memory problems.

Melatonin: This naturally hormone helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle, but can also be found at your local grocery store or pharmacy. Researchers recommend it for treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. The side effects of melatonin include daytime drowsiness, headaches and dizziness. Additionally, there is a possibility that you may also experience anxiety, abdominal discomfort and even short-term depression after taking melatonin.

Valerian: Medication from this plant may help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and promote a better sleep quality. However, its active ingredient isn’t known and potency varies. Side effects include excitability, abdominal discomfort and heart disturbances.

If you think an OTC sleep aid could be beneficial you should consult with your doctor especially if you are currently taking other medications, be cautious and realize that OTC sleep aids are a temporary solution not intended to be used for more than 2 weeks, avoid alcohol and take note of possible side effects.

If you are considering a sleep aid, speak with a licensed physician to learn more about it could affect you. Keep in mind that medication is a short-term solution for many sleep issues, so be prepared to make some changes to your bedtime habits to keep taking advantage of quality snooze!


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