Use of over-the-counter sleep medication requires caution and attention

Ingredients in non-prescription medication taken for sleep remedy can be linked to long-term side effects.

Over-the-counter medication and natural remedies serve as a solution for falling and staying asleep. However, research shows, this type of medication has many negative side effects that are proving more serious than drug manufacturers make them out to be.

The most popular forms of these over-the-counter medications include products like ZzzQuil or Tylenol PM. Natural remedies like melatonin also promise a solution to sleep problems. These products however, can contain ingredients like diphenhydramine, doxylamine, and a number of others that have been known to remedy other illnesses besides insomnia.

Over-the-counter sleep medication does not work in the same way that a prescription drug would, according to Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, an expert in sleep medicine at USC. The over-the counter products are often pain medication or antihistamines that have side-effects which can help people fall asleep.

Dr. Dasgupta explained it is important to be aware of what is going in your body.

“There are so many medications out there that are not FDA approved for sleep,” he said “Why would you take that just for the sleeping side-effect?”

In some cases, the continued use of over-the-counter pain medication as a solution for insomnia can cause long-term effects like ulcers or dementia, Dr. Dasgupta explained.

He described these over-the-counter options as a bandage for the real issue of insomnia.

“We have to look for the underlying cause and treat that and not just jump to medications,” Dr. Dasgupta said.

Students are some of the most common users of over-the-counter sleep medication because of their busy schedules and large amounts of work. It provides an inexpensive and immediately accessible solution to their sleeping problems, but doesn’t always prove to be effective.

USC sophomore, Madeline Daniels, said that there are many factors in a campus environment that affect a student’s ability to get the correct amount of sleep.

When her sleeping issues became worse this semester, Madeline sought help through the use of over-the-counter sleeping medication.

“I was trying to take melatonin,” she said “[which] would sometimes help, but not really.”

She consulted her doctor and eventually found a combination of prescription remedies that are working for her.

“For the first time, seriously, I feel very well-rested” she said.

Over-the-counter sleeping medication, while easily accessible and sometimes effective, should be used with caution because of the wide variety of effects that can come with them. One in 10 people suffer from chronic insomnia disorder, but it can be remedied through the correct use of both prescription and over-the-counter medication.