Wake Up About the Sleeping Pills You’re Taking

At what cost are you trying to get a good night's rest?

Why are you really taking those sleep aids?

That may be the most important question to ask if you want to wean yourself off pills and hit the pillow naturally each night.

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Too many of us are reaching for Advil PM, Nytol, Simply Sleep, or any number of other sleep drugs easily available at the local drugstore. And we’re not just using them for the recommended week or two. We’re taking them long-term, Consumer Reports recently found.

These drugs contain ingredients such as diphenhydramine, a decades-old antihistamine often used as a remedy for seasonal allergies. If taken for any length of time — these drugs can can be habit-forming and cause drowsiness, constipation, confusion, and dizziness.

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Reduce the Risk of Insomnia Drugs” source=””]Take for only a few days at a time|Take lowest recommended dose|Never drink alcohol while taking them|Don’t take an extra pill to get back to sleep|Avoid mixing them with other sleep drugs or supplements[/lz_bulleted_list]

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Another concern is the “hangover effect” — impaired balance, coordination, and driving performance the day after you’ve taken the drug, heightening the risk of falls and accidents, Consumer Reports noted. A January 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine also found that frequent, long-term use of first-generation antihistamines, including diphenhydramine, is linked to an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The results are incredibly concerning, as roughly one in five respondents said they took an OTC sleep aid on a daily basis within the past year. Even more concerning — 41 percent of respondents said they used the drugs for a year or longer.

If you’re having trouble sleeping for more than 14 days, experts recommend you see your doctor. Your sleep trouble could be caused by a far more serious underlying condition, such as heartburn, depression, or heart disease.

Related: Why Screens and Sleep Don’t Mix

For those with chronic insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is recommended over sleeping pills. CBT should include time with a licensed sleep therapist who can help you navigate habits or attitudes that may compromise your sleep. Studies show CBT helps in a majority of chronic insomnia cases with few, if any, downsides.

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