Antihistamines and Over the Counter Medications To Aid SleepAntihistamines are available from the chemist without prescription. They are commonly used to treat allergies. They also have a sedative effect and can help relax the mind and body enough to encourage an improved night’s sleep. Antihistamines are generally considered to be of little value for improving long term sleep and the side effects should encourage users to restrict use.

Insomnia is distressing. Lying awake at night and then feeling tired and irritable during the day it is difficult to think straight…There are many effective ways to resolve sleeps problems but they all take time. Sometimes a little help with a few nights sleep is all that’s needed and the high street chemist is a good place to start.

Using Your Pharmacist

There are a number of ‘over the counter’ remedies available from high street chemists. Pharmacists provide information and advice on medications. Sometimes patients are confused or have forgotten their doctor’s advice so the pharmacist is a useful back up. With insomnia, they may even be too tired to take it all in! With the elderly, confusion combined with exhaustion means it’s often difficult to remember all the helpful advice that a doctor or other helpers may have offered.

Pharmacists are highly qualified and have all the up to date information on what’s available. They can explain how to use prescribed medication and advise on the different formulations that are available without prescription. There are a large number of medications available which promise to have an effect on sleep – many using herbs and natural products. The pharmacist will be able to give guidance on their suitability and any side effects.

Side Effects

Antihistamines not only cause drowsiness but also have other side effects. As their name suggests they are designed to stop the release of histamine that causes the allergic reaction. They can be taken orally or as nasal sprays or creams. They can irritate or dry the lining of the nose and increased dosage is needed to maintain the effect.

Consulting Your Doctor

Insomnia is such a common problem that many people are reluctant to consult their doctor. Self help is increasingly popular. Information on the net and in the media means that many people are able to find accurate information and advice without consulting their GP. Medication should only be taken after seeking professional advice. Symptoms may require further investigation. Prescriptions for medication should be individually prescribed providing accurate dosage and length of treatment.

Consult your doctor if:

  • Symptoms are severe
  • Sleep is having a negative affect on your life
  • Daytime fatigue and drowsiness persist
  • Breathing disorders are affecting sleep
  • All other non drug treatments have failed

Other Help

Doctors will try to help find a solution that is suitable for each individual. They will be able to assess the physical and mental health of each patient and rule out any other disorders that may be causing insomnia. Most doctors are reluctant to hand out sleeping pills on demand, but will prescribe short term doses when they feel they will be of benefit. They will give advice on how to take medication and will be able to provide up to date information and advice on withdrawal and side effects. They may also be able to suggest other help including counselling to encourage long term relief.

Over the counter medications, including Antihistamines are designed to be safe when used in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions. They should be used for the right purpose – read the packet carefully to make sure they match the presenting symptoms. Never exceed the dosage and always discontinue use and seek medical advice if symptoms persist or there are adverse side effects. Never take antihistamines or any other medication that has been prescribed for another person.

Doctors and patients differ in their approach to sleeping pills. Some people prefer a natural approach and are reluctant to take medication. Others may be keen to take medication. Both have their place in treating insomnia and improving sleep. Current research supports the use of medication for short term relief and advises against long term dependency. A combination of medication and counselling has been shown to produce improvement and long term benefits.