Can’t sleep? Find out if sleep aids are safe to use

“Getting enough sleep is good for your heart, brain, mood, and immune system, and helps with productivity,” says Natalie A. Williams, MD, Family Medicine at ARC East 7th. “Meanwhile, poor sleep has been associated with weight gain and depression.”

In this recent article in Women’s Health, Dr. Williams discussed using over-the-counter sleep aids to get that elusive sleep. “It’s important to not consider medication sleep aids as a long-term solution — you can develop a tolerance to them, and some sleep aids are contraindicated for certain conditions,” she explains. If you find yourself using them regularly, she suggests checking in with your doctor, as there may be an issue that’s preventing you from getting quality sleep, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. But, in the short run, sleep aids can be a helpful tool.

What are the different types of sleep aids available over the counter?

The two main types of sleep aids you’ll find on the market are sedating antihistamines and melatonin.

  • Sedating antihistamines can be diphenhydramine (think Benadryl and Aleve PM) or doxylamine succinate (the main ingredient found in NyQuil), Dr. Williams says. If allergies, headaches, or minor pains are disrupting your sleep, diphenhydramine can be helpful. Doxylamine succinate is for people who can't fall asleep but not because of any other complaints.
  • Melatonin is considered a more natural option since it’s a hormone that your body produces naturally. “Your body’s melatonin level tends to be at its highest at night and lowest in the morning,” Dr. Williams says. “Melatonin helps your body know that it's the time to relax and sleep. It doesn’t, therefore, knock you out, like antihistamines.” And you’re unlikely to become dependent on melatonin, nor are there many side effects.

Again, sleep aids aren’t meant to be permanent solutions and come with risks if taken too long.

Make an appointment today

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Williams, you can do so online or by calling ARC East 7th at 737-910-6700.

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