Pros and Cons of Using Benadryl as a Sleep Aid

When you are having trouble falling asleep at night, you may be tempted to take an antihistamine such as Benadryl as this medication induces a feeling of sleepiness.

While this is a viable solution if you take Benadryl infrequently, it is not a reliable method for gaining a restful night’s sleep on a consistent basis. Antihistamines such as Benadryl make you tired, but they do not directly address the issues you are having if you are regularly struggling to fall asleep.

Adjusting your lifestyle habits or using alternative sleep aids may be the only way to directly address any sleep disorders or anxiety you are experiencing. Approximately one in five adults takes an over-the-counter sleep medication to help them fall asleep at night, and Benadryl is one of the top choices in this category.

All in all, taking allergy medicine to treat your exhaustion is considered detrimental to your health. The small benefit you gain from using Benadryl as a sleep aid is outweighed by the disadvantages of this tactic.

Benefits of Using Benadryl as a Sleep Aid

Benadryl contains antihistamine, which is sometimes referred to as diphenhydramine on the label. This ingredient effectively works to block the chemical histamine which is produced by your central nervous system.

Histamine produces allergy symptoms and antihistamines are used in medications such as Benadryl to suppress these symptoms and alleviate the pressure felt by those who suffer from allergens throughout the year. In addition to quelling your allergy symptoms, antihistamines affect your ability to stay awake and are generally accompanied by a sensation of drowsiness.

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Using Benadryl as a sleep aid is effective in short-term doses if you are trying to fall asleep more effectively when traveling or if you are involved in a stressful situation. Doctors do not advise the use of Benadryl as a sleep aid for long-term use though as this is not the intended use of the medication.

While inducing drowsiness may seem helpful when you are pressed for sleep, you cannot repeatedly use an allergy medication to treat your insomnia. The long-term effects of this decision have not been studied directly by healthcare professionals and thus may lead to harmful health conditions if the process is repeated consistently.

Disadvantages of Using Benadryl as a Sleep Aid

The primary disadvantage of using Benadryl as a sleep aid is that it directly impacts your ability to sleep better at night. While you may be sleeping longer, you are likely not entering an important phase in the sleep cycle if you are relying on an antihistamine to make you feel tired.

Antihistamines quell an essential neurotransmitter in your brain known as acetylcholine. When acetylcholine is blocked in your brain, you are less likely to enter REM sleep which is needed for a restful night of sleep. REM sleep is responsible for the stage in which you are dreaming which is essential to your body’s restoration process.

Without entering a deep sleep during the REM cycle, you are only gaining a light sleep at night which leads you vulnerable to feelings of fatigue the next day. This is commonly referred to as next-day sedation, as your brain is still clouded by the medicine you took the night before.

Your brain has not had time to effectively process the medicine, nor have you been able to gain a fully restful sleep without entering the REM cycle which may lead to further health issues. When you are suffering from next-day sedation, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of focus

This disrupts the normal flow of your day as you may be less likely to pay full attention to work or school the following day. Additionally, this type of medication becomes less effect the more you use it to manage your sleep deprivation.

Your body builds up a tolerance to sedatives relatively quickly which means you are going to increase the dosage of Benadryl you take each night to fall asleep. This is detrimental to your overall health, both mentally and physically.

Benadryl Alternatives

Choosing an alternative medication to Benadryl is helpful in alleviating some of the more common issues attributed to taking this antihistamine as a sleep aid, though other products containing antihistamines are not practical substitutes. Medicines containing OTC or other antihistamines are intended for short-term use and do not address the underlying issues causing your sleep deprivation.

If you are struggling to fall asleep at night due to sleep apnea, depression, anxiety or another mental health issue, seek help from a medical professional to determine how you can gain a better night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation lasting longer than two weeks must be addressed by a doctor to ensure you are not leaving yourself vulnerable to health issues accompanying a lack of rest.

Your lifestyle habits may be contributing to this issue, as there are common things people do each day that are aiding in their inability to fall asleep at night. Consuming caffeine late in the day keeps you awake for longer periods, as does increasing the time spent on your phone when it is late at night.

The light from your phone tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime, which deters melatonin from being released naturally by your brain. Overall, the longer it takes for you to release melatonin, the longer it takes you to fall asleep.

To address your sleep deprivation issues, keep yourself on a specific sleep schedule and maintain the same routine before bed each night. Turn off all electronics and dim the lights at a certain point each night as this helps address the issue of your brain believing it is daytime due to the light you are exposed to before you fall asleep.

Listen to a guided meditation or read before bed as these activities help to calm you down and allow your body to feel more at ease. Avoid having a bedtime snack as the added sugar and calories from food may force you to stay awake longer or lead to an uneven night of sleeping.

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