Are you you one of the millions of people who have purchased an over the counter sleeping pill? If so, science is now showing that this could be hazardous to your health. As it turns out, these drugs aren’t necessarily as safe as people have been saying for years. We’re going to expose the truth here – after that, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you will ever purchase an OTC sleeping pill ever again.
The 101 on OTC Sleeping Pills
Most people don’t know that there’s basically no difference between brands when it comes to OTC sleeping pills. If you don’t believe us, then we invite you to look at the active ingredients list on the back of the boxes of different pills. Nine times out of ten, the one ingredient they will all have in common is something called diphenhydramine. Granted, there are some PM NSAIDs which throw diphenhydramine in there to help people sleep through evening aches, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a different sleeping formula. Doxylamine succinate is another but less common sleeping pill main ingredient which is so closely related to diphenhydramine that there’s almost no difference between the two.
What gets even more confusing is when you learn what diphenhydramine was originally designed for. In its early days, it was a potent antihistamine which helped relieve common allergy symptoms. However, it also came with the unfortunate side effect of causing extreme drowsiness in most of the people who used it. This inspired drug companies to repackage and rebrand the same drug as a completely different one. And they laughed about it all the way to the bank.
If you are staunchly pro-capitalism, you may be asking what the problem is with that business strategy. For starters, this may disguise the potentially dangerous side effects of these medications. If you have a medical issue which prevents you from taking antihistamine drugs (in addition to sleep problems), this can become a very toxic combination very quickly. Likewise, allergy sufferers who don’t know that diphenhydramine (AKA “Benadryl”) can also cause drowsiness may put their lives or the lives of others in danger if they have to operate heavy machinery.
Potentially Dangerous Side Effects of OTC Sleeping Pills
It may take some great effort, but if you look hard enough, you can find a comprehensive list of warnings and side effects associated with diphenhydramine. These include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Decreased urine output
- Painful urination
- Racing or pounding heartbeat
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
- GI distress
- Next-day drowsiness (which advertisements claim is not a symptom!)
We know that list looks scary – and that’s because it is! But there is some good news. If you only use over the counter sleeping pills when you absolutely have to and in short bursts, you may not experience any of these symptoms at all. Even if you do, most people – especially young people in good health – can easily reverse the damage when they stop taking the pills. Unfortunately, since most people are under the misguided notion that these drugs are safe, extended use and abuse of OTC sleeping pills is a lot more common than most people know. Furthermore, people who take diphenhydramine for allergies are encouraged to take antihistamines on a daily basis for extended periods of time – despite all of the unhealthy side effects listed above.
Recent scientific discoveries have found that taking antihistamines like diphenhydramine for extended periods of time can cause actual brain damage over the course of your life. Researchers have established a very strong correlation between people who regularly take first-generation antihistamines for many years and people who develop diseases like Alzheimer’s at an unexpectedly early age. The correlation also shows a disturbing increase in antihistamine users who developed these symptoms without any previous family history of age-related brain disease.
How can this be the case? Well, aside from altering your body’s natural histamine reaction, diphenhydramine also acts directly upon your central nervous system (CNS). Specifically, it is classified as a “depressant”, which means that it slows down your motor function and cognitive abilities. But guess what? Alcohol and benzodiazepines do the same thing. Of course, you can’t get your hands on benzodiazepines (legally) without a prescription from your doctor. Likewise, the toxic effects of alcohol are so well-known that the packaging warning labels all over it. Yet, strangely, these unregulated sleeping pills have been deemed safe for daily, long-term consumption in certain cases.
You should obviously talk to your doctor if you have a serious health condition and you plan to or are currently taking a sleeping pill with diphenhydramine in it. But even people who are completely healthy can experience toxic effects from this drug. After all, the extremely potent LD50 of diphenhydramine makes it much easier to overdose on than even the most illicit of substances. Signs of overdose include extremely painful stomach cramps, vomiting, seizures, and (of course) death. You may also experience trouble breathing if you take too much diphenhydramine. Long-term damage from excessive diphenhydramine use has also been associated with neuropathic pain and other symptoms of nerve degeneration.
Discussing Safer Alternatives
Over the counter sleeping pills seem like the quick, cheap, easy way to eliminate your sleepless nights. But this short-term, affordable convenience can come at a significant cost to your health over the long haul. The better option is to explore the wide variety of natural sleep aids which are available to consumers like you.
These supplements do not require a prescription, and they’re much cheaper than regular sleeping pills when you calculate the long-term costs. They help you get a restorative, natural rest which improves the health and longevity of your brain well into your golden years. Best of all, since different ingredients work on different people, the highest quality supplements contain a wide variety of natural extracts which nearly anyone can benefit from. And we can recommend some really good natural sleep aids if you are ready to start shopping.