For a good night sleep is of primary importance to your health. So, if you wake up at one o'clock in the morning For the third night in a row, you may be tempted to rest in whatever way you can – with what's in your medicine cabinet. Most of the time this means an antihistamine that either warns of drowsiness on the box or that you anecdotally assume you're fooling yourself. So how bad is that really? You should know the following when taking an antihistamine to fall asleep.
The main component of this fast-acting antihistamine is diphenhydramine hydrochloride (DPH).
It is the active ingredient in Benadryl, an antihistamine that is used to treat symptoms of an allergic reaction such as itching, watery eyes and sneezing. The sleepy part is really just a side effect that is listed on the box.
Histamine is a chemical that causes an inflammatory reaction behind allergy symptoms, but also plays an important role in alertness . (The nature of this relationship is not well understood.) Along with soothing allergy symptoms, antihistamines, when counteracting the histamine in your body, have the side effect of making you tired Rafael Pelayo MD, a sleep specialist at Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, tells SELF.
But this ingredient will not necessarily blow everyone away. David Rapoport M.D., Director of the Sleep Medicine Research Program and Professor of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, says that SELF does not work as a sleep aid. In a 2017 published review of the research results in the Clinical Practice Guideline for the pharmacological treatment of chronic insomnia in adults 46 studies were examined to recommend clinical guidelines for the treatment of insomnia. Researchers found that the evidence for DPH-based drugs that resulted in better sleep was "clinically insignificant," suggesting that people should not try to use these drugs to fall asleep faster or sleep longer ,
As Dr. Pelayo points out how you respond to a particular drug, it's quite individual, and it's possible that you may be more responsive to the placebo effect if you take something that you believe makes you sleepy ,
help you fall asleep.
"It's very attractive to humans because it's an over-the-counter drug," Dr. Rapoport. "It's [seen as] a quick and dirty way to fix your insomnia."
But OK, how bad is it? DPH is generally very safe and carries a low risk of serious side effects. So it's not such a big deal if you take care of drifting every now and then, Dr. Rapoport. But there are a few things that doctors first want to know that you are aware of.
"The big problem with this type of medication is that it takes a long time in your system," says Dr. Pelayo. The lasting effect of a standard dose for adults (25 to 50 milligrams, ie one to two pills or fluid doses) is unlikely to be incredibly strong, Dr. Rapoport, but it can be enough to make you feel sleepy or foggy the next morning. Other side effects are mild and may include dry mouth, nose and throat; Dizziness, constipation; A headache; and nausea, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
. You can also build tolerance for DPH fairly quickly . "[Antihistamines] tend to stop working," says Dr. Rapoport. "The body adapts to her." With daily use, you can build tolerance within about two weeks, he says, although the specific time here can vary from person to person. This means you need to take an ever-increasing dose to achieve the same effect. Higher doses mean a higher risk of side effects, such as morning tiredness. If you take a drug with DPH for an extended period of time, you may need to take the vicious circle that makes you feel even sleepier throughout the day.
Here's something you may not know: DPH is the only active ingredient in Benadryl and ZzzQuil. However, only one is indicated for falling asleep.
Although Benadryl lists "marked drowsiness" as a potential side effect it is not stated as a sleep aid on the packaging. Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Benadryl, however, refused to comment on the matter as it discussed off-label use.
On the other hand, ZzzQuil products have exactly the same active ingredient. (Except for one which contains only the active ingredient melatonin .) Therefore, these ZzzQuil products work in much the same way as Benadryl, but are specifically designed for sleep – in the short term , ZzzQuil is indicated for "the relief of occasional insomnia". The warning label advises consumers to stop using and see a doctor if they still do not sleep after two weeks. When he was approached for a comment, Procter & Gamble, makers of ZzzQuil, emphasized these instructions. Benadryl does not contain such a warning, although experts believe it is not good to take it in the long run.
But if you take ZzzQuil to help you sleep, this could theoretically lead to the potential side effects of taking Benadryl. like the next day drowsiness. At the ZzzQuil site manufacturers are finding that there are "many factors" that can affect how well you feel recovered the next morning, including the time you take ZzzQuil. You are advised to take ZzzQuil only if you know that you have enough time to get a full night's rest, whichever you normally would.
Why is one drug marketed as an antihistamine and another as a sleep aid? ? It really depends on two companies deciding how to sell a product that has two main effects: reducing allergy symptoms and fatigue. Benadryl is a brand for allergy sufferers. ZzzQuil is a sleep aid line that focuses on marketing products that are essentially the same product in different ways.
"Yes, it's the same remedy [DPH] but … for a person to sleep well with any product, they must have some confidence in the product," Dr. Pelayo. Some people may feel more confident that a drug that is marketed to help them fall asleep may do so as an off-label drug. "Some people more trust certain brands or have preferences about how things taste or be formulated," he says.
Besides, like Dr. Pelayo points out, various medicines contain additional ingredients that are listed as inactive. It's easy to believe that an inactive ingredient does nothing, but that's not true. Inactive ingredients do not produce the stated effects of a drug according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, they may affect the taste, color, ease of drug delivery, and other factors of a drug. This can lead to someone favoring Benadryl over ZzzQuil, or vice versa, even though they function essentially the same.
In general, it is good to use a DPH product to occasionally fall asleep, but it should not be a habit.
As long as you do not bother the next day's sleepiness, sporadic use of the recommended daily dose of these medications usually has no serious medical impact on a healthy adult, Dr. Rapoport. However, if you feel the need to turn to a sleep aid every night, you should seek treatment to address the underlying cause of your insomnia. An extremely busy week at work. Regular problems falling asleep or falling asleep is a sign that goes a little deeper. "If you have to take something more than twice a week and the problem has been more than three months, you need to meet someone," says Dr. Pelayo. (Honestly, you should ask your doctor before even occasionally taking an antihistamine to help with sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic .) Medicines containing DPH can aggravate certain underlying conditions, such as Asthma and sleep apnea.)
A general practitioner  or sleep specialist can help you identify the underlying conditions that cause your urge for something in your medicine cabinet to intervene. B. Angst . . "There's a pretty good chance we can figure out what's going on when you talk to someone who knows what he's talking about." Treating this condition can in turn help relieve insomnia.
A doctor may also help you to find out if there are any habits that you may not recognize disturbing your sleep, such as drinking the tea late and helping you establish good Sleep Hygiene as if you were holding on to a constant bedtime.
If your insomnia has no obvious cause, it is called primary or idiopathic insomnia. "The good news is that it's very treatable," Dr. Pelayo. He and Dr. Rapoport both recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you explore the stress or anxiety that surrounds sleep as a result of insomnia. A therapist can help you identify and change thoughts and behaviors that can affect your sleep. There are even therapists specializing in CBT for sleep disorders . And while you're considering treatment, your doctor may prescribe a sedative remedy for anxiety if he thinks it will help in the short term. Pelayo.
Conclusion: An antihistamine to help you sleep may not be harmful to most people, but it's also not the most helpful solution. Ask your doctor for additional options.