For people who take an antihistamine such as Benadryl or piriton for a cold or allergies, drowsiness is often a welcome side effect.
To some, they go to the extent of abusing over-the-counter drugs to counter the loss of sleep.
But a Nairobi based medical practitioner John Kamau cautions against turning to this type of medication as a sleep aid.
“Many allergy sufferers know that antihistamines work for their symptoms but also make them sleepy. People sometimes turn to these medications to help them sleep, even when they’re not sick. But the use of medication to force children or adults to sleep is generally not the best idea,” said Dr Kamau
Antihistamines have side effects that include altered mental state, urinary retention and dry mouth. While these side effects are generally mild and well-tolerated in young patients without other medical problems, they can pose a risk, especially for the elderly.
“Use of antihistamines can lead to sleepwalking and other parasomnias. That can definitely occur with Benadryl just as with other hypnotic agents like Ambien,” Kamau said.
While antihistamines may help you to fall asleep, overall sleep quality is usually not very good, he said. Sometimes, they even have the opposite effect and cause hyperactivity, especially in children.