Millions, and possibly even billions, of people suffer from the inability to sleep, at least occasionally. While a sleepless night once in a while is annoying, for those who consistently have trouble sleeping, it can be debilitating. Sleep deprivation causes a whole host of medical problems, including weight gain, stress, inability to focus, poor digestion, and even worse diseases. This might be why 9 million people use prescription sleep aids, and there may be even more using non-prescription aids.
What exactly is in these sleep aids, however, and are there sleep aid ingredients to avoid? There are certainly some things that you shouldn’t take to induce sleep, at least when you get them in over-the-counter medications. While serious side effects from any of these are unlikely, it’s best to try natural sleep remedies or even Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) before you reach for something that contains the following ingredients.
Diphenhydramine – This is a sedating antihistamine. An antihistamine works against the activity of histamine receptors in the body, which means that they can help treat allergic reactions. This is an ingredient that is commonly found in anti-allergy medications, such as Benadryl. You may have noticed that if you do take Benadryl or another anti-allergy medication, you feel drowsy. For this reason, many people use Benadryl or Claritin to help them go to sleep. However, just as with any medication that is used for a purpose other than the intended one, there can be side effects. And, too much use may create more problems. You may want to avoid Diphenhydramine because of its daytime side effects: daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, blurry vision, constipation, and urinary retention.
Doxylamine succinate – This is another sedating antihistamine, which means that it works much the same as Diphenhydramine. So, as stated above, you should be careful with how you consume this ingredient. If you don’t have allergies and are using an anti-allergy medication to treat insomnia, you aren’t using it for its intended purpose. However, this ingredient is also available in OTC sleep medications, like Unisom SleepTabs. While this may use a different formula than Benadryl or Claritin, you may still experience the same negative side effects as you would with Diphenhydramine.
Barbiturates – These were developed at the end of the nineteenth century by two German scientists who were looking for a way to induce sleep and calm the nerves, other than by alcohol. The long-acting variety (those that take longer to set in and wear off more slowly) are not likely to be addictive, and a patient may take small daily doses without many side effects. However, you should beware of short-acting barbiturates, which take effect quickly and likewise wear off quickly, because these do have a risk of addiction associated with them. Other than for sleep, barbiturates are also used in the treatment of epilepsy, high blood pressure, ulcers, and anxiety. If you are looking to take barbiturates to help you sleep, or any of the ingredients in this article, you should ask your doctor to be sure that you are taking them in a safe manner. Otherwise, you may opt for natural sleep aids to help you settle down for the night.