Sleeping pills and antihistamines: what’s worse?

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Sleeping pills are often recommended as a solution to insomnia – even though there are many the dangers of sleeping pills, like the ‘benzo hangover’, brain fog and addiction. Surprisingly, antihistamines are dangerous too, and have similar side effects – and here are the top 5 issues, so you can be aware, informed and make a calculated decision regarding the question of which sleep aid is worse.

Sleeping pills vs antihistamines: excessive daytime fatigue

The primary problem with sleeping pills and antihistamines alike is that the sedative effects don’t just last the evening. As noted by one clinical paper, those taking a sedative antihistamine in the evening were sleepier and more likely to fall asleep throughout the day – compared to those taking a fake sleeping pill (placebo).

Sleeping tablets lead to attention difficulties

Antihistamines contain diphenhydramine – a drug which suppresses the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is usually responsible for alertness, learning and memory. This is exactly why you struggle to concentrate. On the other hand, sleeping tablets / sleeping pills / sleeping aids contribute to concentration problems is due to fatigue.

Both sleeping aids cause brain fog 

Just like inadequate sleep, antihistamines slow processing speed, reduce vigilance and lead to brain fog. In fact, the clinical paper mentioned above noted the effect of the drug was so strong, it was akin to the effect of having a brain injury. 

Antihistamines and sleeping pills increase injury risk

As noted by a 2000 study by Georgetown University School of Medicine, antihistamine users were 1.5 times more likely to have an injury compared to non users. Interestingly, the study also compared other drug users too, such as those taking narcotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics and sedative hypnotics. Overall, the risk for injury was the worst for those taking antihistamines. This stems down to the fact that you simply do not know when the drug has left the body. Clearance rate depends on body size, food / caffeine / alcohol intake, health status and more. You can

Both sleeping tablets cause dangerous driving 

Again, antihistamines and sleeping pills contribute to dangerous driving. A Netherlands study found those under the influence of first generation antihistamines had as great of a driving impairment as one with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 – technically drunk. Note the study was conducted 3 hours after ingestion, as the clearance rate is uncertain, it’s difficult to say when your driving abilities return. Similarly, the 2000 paper above found of all fatal road accidents in Ontario, Canada, drivers who passed due to their own fault were 1.5 times more likely those driving under the influence of antihistamines, compared to drivers not responsible for their fatality.

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smart, savvy and more than just a sleep expert.

Hi, I'm Olivia.

If you want raw, real and unfiltered Olivia, my blog is where you'll find it.
As an author and avid writer, I find immense pleasure in sharing the ins and outs - without holding back - of my journey through life.
Professionally, I'm a sleep expert - but i'm guessing you already know that.
Personally, I'm a free-flowing, idealistic introvert who loves to travel, dance and enjoy an Aperol Spritz.

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