Are you experiencing some difficulty falling asleep and you don’t feel rested the next day?
There are some things you can do that may help! The first step to restoring a healthy sleep cycle is good sleep hygiene. Establish a regular sleep pattern: Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Try to relax an hour or two before your normal bedtime. Avoid using electronic devices while you are in your bed, such as television, cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Try to avoid daytime napping as this could throw off your normal sleep pattern. Avoid the use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. If you are hungry, eat a small snack, but try to avoid large meals. Lastly do not watch the clock, watching the clock can add anxiety to your sleeping problems and make it even more difficult to fall asleep.
But what if good sleep hygiene isn’t enough?
Over the counter sleep aids are available but should be used for short term use only. Diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, Unisom, Sominex, and ZzzQuil, should be tried first. Do not use combination products solely for sleep, such as Tylenol PM and Advil PM. These products contain other medications along with diphenhydramine that could cause undesirable side effects. 25mg – 50mg of diphenhydramine may be used for 2 – 3 consecutive nights along with good sleep hygiene practices. After this time, you should skip a dose and reevaluate your sleep problem. If the issue is not resolved after 10 days of use with diphenhydramine, you should let your primary care provider or pharmacist know so that alternative therapies might be suggested.
What about natural products?
Natural supplements such as melatonin, valerian, and kava are commonly used for sleep disorders. However, these products are not proven to be extremely beneficial, and we therefore do not recommend them as a first line treatment option for sleep disorders. Good sleep hygiene practices such as those listed above should be tried first before any additional medications are used. And remember, it is always a good idea to consult your primary care provider or pharmacist before trying any new medications, over the counter products, or herbal supplements to be sure they are safe for you!
Philip Sumpert, PharmD Candidate 2018
South Carolina College of Pharmacy
1. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs, 18th edition