Taking Over the Counter Sleep Aids Safely

June 15, 2010

in Non Prescription, Sleeping Pills

Millions of Americans have occasional — if not chronic — problems when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep. Most commonly, those suffering from insomnia select from a variety of OTC (over the counter medications dispensed without a prescription) sleep aids. Which are the best sleep aids, and how does one ensure they are taken safely? Although much remains unknown about their efficacy and associated potential long term side effects, certain facts have been ascertained in relation to many of the most popular OTC pharmaceutical sleep aids.

Diphenhydramine is a very common component within many OTC sleep aids, and it is the active ingredient within brand names including Benadryl, Tylenol PM and Sominex. Those who use drugs containing Diphenhydramine can expect to experience side effects including, but not limited to, dizziness, extended drowsiness often lasting after the subsequent morning, memory problems and a dry mouth. Sleep aids containing Diphenhydramine should be avoided by those with cardiovascular issues, an enlarged prostate or glaucoma. Additionally, Diphenhydramine is not among the best sleep aids for pregnant or breast-feeding women.

OTC sleep aids utilizing the active ingredient Doxylamine are also currently a popular choice for those experiencing occasional insomnia. The most salient brand name using Doxylamine is Unisom, and potential side effects associated with this OTC sleep aid include prolonged drowsiness, dry mouth and light-headedness. Unisom and other OTC sleep aids containing Doxylamine should not be used by those with glaucoma, bronchitis, peptic ulcers or asthma. It is strongly advised that those taking any OTC sleep aid refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery until the effects have completely worn off.

Some of the best sleep aids contain natural supplements as opposed to chemically-based pharmaceuticals. The most common supplement used to combat insomnia is melatonin. Some swear by melatonin’s effectiveness, whereas others claim that it is far from being among the best sleep aids currently available. Much of the debate centers around potential side effects of melatonin which includes the reports of irrational behavior, depression, confusion and anxiety. However, some melatonin users do not report any of these adverse effects.

Whichever OTC sleep aid you select, it is important to closely follow the instructions printed on the bottle. Those with serious pre-existing medical conditions should only use OTC sleep aids under the supervision of their primary care physician. When used properly, OTC pills for insomnia can prove to be among the best sleep aids available.

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