Trying and failing to fall asleep can be a nightmare. As you lie there, becoming more and more anxious about not getting your eight hours, it can be very tempting to reach for a quick fix that will help you doze off in minutes. More than 9 million Americans use prescription sleep aids, and countless more rely on over-the-counter meds like Benadryl or Tylenol PM. These pills offer a solution in the moment, but research shows that they’re harming more than helping.
Incorrect use of sleep aids account for 42,000 ER visits a year, but even using them correctly can be seriously detrimental to your health. Ambien is habit-forming and can cause memory lapses, while Benadryl can increase the risk of dementia and impair cognitive function, Tylenol PM contains almost twice the amount of acetaminophen allowed by the FDA, and NSAID-based sleep aids can cause bleeding in your intestine. Yes, bleeding in your intestine— now that’ll keep you up at night.
On top of all that, these aids aren’t even giving you proper rest: they have a powerful sedative effect that helps you fall asleep, but it’s just that: sedation, not sleep. Plus, sleep aids only treat the symptom, masking the root cause of your sleep problems. By treating the underlying issue, whether it’s anxiety, poor sleep hygiene, allergies, or something else, you’ll improve not only your sleep but also your waking hours.