Are Sleep Aids Really Addictive?

Addiction to Sleep Aids

Are Sleep Aids Really Addictive?

Most people have taken the occasional over-the-counter sleep aid, especially when illness or pain is involved. This is why it may be hard to believe that sleep aids are among the most commonly abused medicines around the world. People need sleep, and when it is compromised, everything falls apart. The desperate need for good sleep causes people to use over-the-counter sleep aids occasionally. The first night you take it, the sleep is unbelievable, so you want to maintain that same level of comfort every night. This is where dependence becomes an issue as well as addiction to sleep aids.


The non-prescription drug diphenhydramine is found in most if not all sleeping pills on the market today. Since it does not call for a prescription, it is a great initial short-term option for the treatment of acute insomnia or the occasional restlessness. This is also the main ingredient in Benadryl and off-brand allergy medicines.

Diphenhydramine is found in the following sleep aids:

  • Advil PM
  • Tylenol PM
  • ZzzQuil
  • Aleve PM
  • Benadryl

Diphenhydramine is in a known class of medication called antihistamines. The way these medications work affects the chemical responses in the brain and brain waves. It allows histamine to form in empty spaces present between different nerve cells. This in return, causes the drowsiness and sleepiness that users get from the drug. This effect also has the ability to suppress nausea, cough, and shortness of breath and allergies.

It definitely will help you fall asleep and possibly remain asleep for a good period of time but should definitely not be used as a long-term treatment option for insomnia. Using these drugs long-term leads to addiction to sleep aids. Continuous use or abuse of the drug can lead to mild to severe side-effects during the day. These include day-time drowsiness, irritability, and mood swings.

What’s the Answer for Addiction to Sleep Aids?

Over a period of time tolerance for diphenhydramine will occur and the person will have to start taking more of the drug to get the desired effect. This cycle leads to dependence and addiction to sleep aids for many reasons. As with all drugs, the cycle will continue until the person needs something much stronger to help them sleep, making insomnia and the addiction worse.

There are many other ways to help combat and even defeat insomnia for good. Developing constant and calming habits around bedtime has proven to be beneficial and can help signal the brain that it is time to relax and go to sleep. Setting a specific time to go to sleep every night, including weekends, has many health benefits and promotes relaxation at a certain time.

Completely avoiding any kinds of sugar or caffeine before bedtime will also reduce the amount of adrenaline coursing through your veins at night. Getting the appropriate amount of exercise during the day not only helps the sleep-wake cycle but also your health in general.

If you are struggling with insomnia or acute sleep problems, try to alleviate the symptoms naturally before turning to OTC sleep aids. The natural remedies discussed above can change your life for the better and have you sleeping like a baby again.

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