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Benadryl: Uses for Sleep and Alternatives

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Benadryl was originally approved by the FDA in 1947 for the treatment of allergies. It is a first-generation antihistamine that works by blocking histamine receptors in the body, and one of the first indications for which it was prescribed was hives.

In addition to its use in the treatment of allergies, Benadryl is also commonly used as a sleep aid. It has sedative effects and can be helpful in inducing sleep when taken close to bedtime. However, there are other medications that may be better suited for this purpose.

So, why do many people use Benadryl as a sleep aid? And are there any potential dangers associated with its use for this purpose?

Benadryl and Sleep: A Common Practice?

It is estimated that up to one-third of adults in the United States have taken Benadryl or a similar antihistamine medication as a sleep aid. This practice is particularly frowned upon by healthcare professionals, as there are safer and more effective alternatives available.

Benadryl can be habit-forming, and it has been linked with a number of side effects including daytime drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and impaired thinking. It is also important to note that Benadryl can interact with other medications that you may be taking, which could lead to serious side effects.

When used as a sleep aid, Benadryl is typically taken in doses of 25 to 50 mg. It is important not to exceed this dose, and it should not be used on a regular basis for this purpose.

Benadryl's Intended Uses

Benadryl is an effective medication for the treatment of allergies. It can help to relieve symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose. Benadryl can also be used to treat hives and other skin conditions caused by an allergic reaction.

Many people also find that Benadryl helps them to fall asleep. It has a sedative effect and can be taken close to bedtime to help you relax and get some rest. However, it is critical to note that there are other medications available that may be better suited for this purpose that are less habit-forming and have fewer side effects.

Other uses for Benadryl include the treatment of motion sickness and nausea. It can also be used to help relieve symptoms associated with colds and flu, such as a runny nose, fever, and body aches.

But as a general rule, Benadryl should only be used as directed for its intended purpose, which is the treatment of allergies. It should not be used as a sleep aid on a regular basis, and it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before using it for this purpose.

Benadryl Side Effects

Some of the common side effects of Benadryl include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Impaired thinking
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime drowsiness

Sleepiness and drowsiness is the most commonly reported side effect, and it can be particularly dangerous when combined with other medications or activities that require focus and attention, such as driving.


Other potential side effects of Benadryl include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Allergic reactions

Does Benadryl Really Help With Sleep?

Yes, Benadryl can help you to fall asleep, but there are other medications that may be better suited for this purpose. When used as a sleep aid, Benadryl should be taken in doses of 25 to 50 mg. Do not exceed this dose and do not use it on a regular basis for this purpose.

There are health risks associated with the use of Benadryl as a sleep aid, so it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before using it for this purpose. You shouldn't use it if you are taking other medications that could interact with it, if you're breastfeeding or pregnant, or if you have certain medical conditions.

What Are The Health Risks Associated With Benadryl?

There are a number of health risks associated with the use of Benadryl as a sleep aid. These include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and impaired thinking. It is also important to note that Benadryl can interact with other medications you may be taking, which could lead to serious side effects.

Long-term use of Benadryl can also lead to dependency and addiction. It is important not to use it on a regular basis for this purpose. It may also cause liver damage in some cases when used over a long period of time.

Additionally, Benadryl can cause dry mouth and nose, which can lead to infection. It can also make breathing difficult for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions. Those with pre-existing heart conditions should also avoid using Benadryl, as it can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure under certain conditions.

The Risks of Using Benadryl as a Sleep-aid

There are several risks associated with using Benadryl as a sleep-aid. First and foremost, it is important to note that Benadryl is not approved by the FDA for this purpose. Therefore, there is no guarantee of its safety or efficacy in helping you fall asleep.

Additionally, taking Benadryl can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth. These side effects may make it difficult for you to function normally during the day if you take Benadryl regularly as a sleep-aid. Additionally, taking high doses of Benadryl can be dangerous, leading to severe side effects such as confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.

Therefore, it is important to speak with your doctor before using Benadryl as a sleep-aid. There may be safer and more effective alternatives available to you.

Safer Alternatives to Benadryl

There are several alternatives to Benadryl that can be used as sleep-aids. One option is prescription medications such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata. These medications have been approved by the FDA for use in treating insomnia, and they are considered to be safe and effective.

Another option is over-the-counter sleep aids such as melatonin or valerian root. These supplements have been shown to be effective in helping people fall asleep, and they are generally considered safe when used as directed.

Finally, it is also possible to get help for insomnia from a therapist or counselor. If you have difficulty sleeping on a regular basis, it may be helpful to speak with someone who can help you identify and address the underlying causes of your sleep problems.

Prescription Solutions

Ambien - Ambien is a prescription sleep medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia. It works by binding to receptors in the brain that are involved in sleep, and it helps to promote relaxation and a good night's sleep.

Ambien is considered safe and effective when used as directed, but there are some potential side effects. These side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.


Lunesta - Lunesta is another prescription sleep medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia. It works in a similar way to Ambien, binding to receptors in the brain that are involved in sleep.

Lunesta is also considered safe and effective when used as directed, but there are some potential side effects. These side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.

Lunesta may also cause hallucinations in some people.


Sonata - Sonata is a prescription sleep medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia. Sonata can be used for short-term treatment of insomnia, and it works by binding to receptors in the brain that are involved in sleep. When used as directed, Sonata is considered safe and effective.

However, there are some potential side effects associated with its use. These side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.

Over The Counter Solutions

Melatonin - Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain and it helps to control the body's natural sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin can be bought over the counter, and it comes as a pill, liquid, or spray. It works by telling the brain when it is time to sleep, and many people find that it helps them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.


Valerian - Valerian is a plant that has been used for centuries as a natural way to treat insomnia. It can be bought over the counter in capsule or liquid form, and it works by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps to calm and relax the body, and many people find that taking valerian before bed helps them to get a good night's sleep.


Chamomile - Chamomile is another herb that has been used for centuries to treat insomnia and anxiety. It is available over the counter in capsule or tea form, and it helps to calm and relax the body. Chamomile can be taken before bedtime or during times of stress to help promote relaxation and better sleep.

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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.

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