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Are Drugstore Sleep Aids Safe?

Submitted by New Jersey Snoring Solutions on Fri 10/26/2018 - 09:00

Drugstore Sleep Aid SafetyDozens of sleep aids clog the aisles of chain and local drug stores. While these products claim they can provide a restful night’s sleep, many people are wary of these claims and wonder if there are any harmful side effects.

In a recent Harvard Health article, Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, discussed the basics of over-the-counter sleep aids. He noted that there are two main types of products available: non-prescription sleep aids and dietary supplements. Dr. Ivan Stein of New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions discusses Dr. Epstein’s findings in this blog post.

Non-prescription Sleep Aid Products

Many non-prescription sleep aid products use a 25 mg dose of antihistamine to induce drowsiness. Antihistamines work by blocking certain brain chemicals. As a category of drugs, antihistamines are generally safe, but over time, some people may build up a tolerance to them.

Supplements for Sleep Aid

Dietary supplements can come in the form of natural substances like herbs or synthetic products like melatonin. The efficacy of most herbal supplements is unclear due to the lack of study data, according to Dr. Epstein. One exception is the root Valerian, which has been shown to induce a small degree of drowsiness for many people.

Melatonin is a synthetic version of human growth hormone and affects a person’s sleep cycle while also inducing a small degree of drowsiness. Melatonin is considered to be a generally safe way of rebalancing sleep patterns that have been disrupted by factors such as traveling across time zones.

Sleep Aid Side Effects and Concerns

Two of the most common antihistamines found in over-the-counter sleep aids —diphenhydramine and doxylamine — are not recommended for people with closed-angle glaucoma, asthma, sleep apnea and a number of other health issues. Many people who use sleep aids experience a hangover-like effect the next day.

Over-the-counter sleep aids should be used for short durations (less than two weeks). Also, those using these products are advised to avoid alcohol and activities like driving while the effects of the products are present.

Contact New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions

If you are having difficulty sleeping due to a condition such as insomnia or sleep apnea, New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions encourages you to schedule a consultation with our West Orange sleep specialist Dr. Ivan Stein. Contact us by calling 855-949-7667 today.