Sleeping pills with side effects

I read an interesting article the other day, about how a lot of over-the-counter medicines don’t actually work terribly well. Things like cough medicines that are no better than good old-fashioned honey and lemon, creams for insect bites that work no more than any old antiseptic cream. It seems that as a country, the UK spends millions of pounds on these products in well-designed packaging that cost a lot more than traditional, old-fashioned remedies… but don’t work anywhere near as well as their flashy advertising suggests.

It was interesting to read a section on over-the-counter sleep-aid pills. A lot of these contain an antihistamine named diphenhydramine. Antihistamines are for allergies, right? Diphenhydramine has a side effect of making people drowsy, though – so what was once used solely for allergic reactions, with a side effect of drowsiness, is now being used to get people to sleep, with a side effect of fewer allergic reactions. How odd that we should be using a side effect from hayfever medication to try and get to sleep at night! Am I the only one who thinks this is bonkers?

Even more bonkers – as per the article I was reading, there’s little scientific evidence that diphenhydramine is at all useful in treating insomnia. In studies where diphenhydramine was compared with use of a placebo, no difference was found – it’s the same as taking a placebo!

We find it hard to sleep; we buy some of these antihistamines labelled as sleep aids, and yes, maybe they help. The side effect of drowsiness may well work once or twice; you might get a few hours’ sleep. Even so, these pills are largely useless and a waste of money. In fact, use of diphenhydramine can have other side effects, including a dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, constipation and urinary retention.

I’ll be honest, I was shocked when I read that list; I couldn’t believe pills with side effects such as these were freely available over the counter, without the advice of a doctor.

In my opinion, insomnia is not the original problem here; it’s usually a side effect of other aspects of our lives. Why would we then take a pill, which adds more side effects to the original problem?

I believe the best – and often only – way to relieve ourselves of sleep problems is to go to the root of the issue. We need to go back to basics: learn to relax; learn to de-stress; look at what is keeping us awake in the first place. There are plenty of things we can do to try and resolve the issue, before we resort to medication of any kind.

If you have the time to go to a chemist to buy antihistamines to help you sleep, I have a challenge for you: spend that time looking through this site, at the ideas and remedies I suggest on these pages. Not only will you save yourself a few pounds on the antihistamines, you might find that you’re able to find that elusive good night’s sleep – and for free!