Are the effects of some sleep aids worse than the sleeplessness?

On the show last Saturday, we spent the last half talking about the importance of sleep and natural ideas for getting restorative rest. I briefly mentioned the side effects of medications for sleep and said that I’d put more information in the newsletter this week.

Over the counter. There are side effects listed for all medications, even ones that do not require a prescription. I am especially concerned about sleep medications found on drug store shelves that contain diphenhydramine. That chemical is in a class of pharmaceuticals known as “anticholinergic”. They interfere with an important neurotransmitter (brain chemical) and for that reason their continued use has been strongly associated with increased risk of dementia!

Here is a partial list of brand names that contain that diphenhydramine chemical. I copied it from Benadryl, Benadryl Allergy Dye-Free LiquiGels, Children’s Benadryl Allergy, Children’s Triaminic Thin Strips Allergy, Alka-Seltzer Plus Allergy, Nytol, PediaCare Children’s Allergy, Simply Sleep, Sominex, QlearQuil Nighttime Allergy Relief, Tranquil Nighttime Sleep Aid, Unisom SleepGels, Unisom SleepMelts and ZzzQuil. There are many more drugs with that chemical in them. Tylenol PM is an example and we need to assume that any with “PM” in the name do as well. You may have noticed allergy meds on that list…and, yikes, products for children!

By prescription too. The People’s Pharmacy radio show has led the way in educating consumers about the variety of anticholinergic drugs including prescriptions that they may be unaware they are taking. In this article on their website they mention other kinds of anticholinergic drugs such as those for “irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, diarrhea…overactive bladder, and incontinence, motion sickness, dizziness, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and breathing problems like asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)…for anxiety, depression, allergies, pain, high blood pressure, mental illness, heart failure and heartburn.” Like diphenhydramine above, these interfere with brain function.

Obviously, the risk of dementia will be greater the more of these medications a person takes and the longer he or she takes them. The natural combination of herbs and amino acids contained in Jarrow’s Sleep Optimizer sounds better and better, right?

Photo is from Medical News Today

2 Responses

  1. Steve Whitaker says:

    I thought diphenhydramine was an antihistamine.

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