Anti-histamines – a sleep DO or DON’T?

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Most over-the-counter sleep remedies are really just anti-histamines packaged as sleep aids.

Anti-histamines do an amazing job if you need them to help relieve your allergies. Research has shown that anti-histamines can decrease snoring, sleep apnea and nasal congestion if the cause is due to an allergic reaction. Anti-histamines are also known to relieve the itch of eczema. Many allergy sufferers aren't sleeping well due to this itchiness, stuffiness and difficulty breathing. Hence, by treating the allergy their sleep automatically benefits.

So, if you are an allergy sufferer then anti-histamines are an absolute DO. Just make sure you take them regularly and at a good time of day so that any drowsiness has worn off before you jump in the car or go to work. However, truth be told, regular use of antihistamines will mean you develop a tolerance to this drowsy feeling. Also, try and eradicate the source of your allergies. Usually these are environmental. Sealy makes use of bamboo and aloe vera fabric known for their non-allergenic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-dustmite properties.

Planning a long distance trip and need to sleep? Crossing a time zone and need help adapting to the new sleep schedule? DO take anti-histamines for three days to help you feel drowsy and fall asleep. After this though their magic powers are said to wear off.

Need a long-term sleep solution after a few weeks of poor sleep? DON'T take anti-histamines. rather consult a doctor or sleep specialist to work out what has happened to your circadian rhythm. Anti-histamines may help you fall asleep easier, but they actually interfere with overall sleep quality. Your long-term goal should be falling asleep within 15 minutes and staying 'asleep' for at least 7.5 hours.

Sensitive to medications? Are you prone to experience side effects every time you try a new drug? Then DON'T take anti-histamines. Anti-histamines do have some uncomfortable and serious side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, memory difficulties, dizziness, urinary retention and altered mental state. These appear to be more common in the elderly population so don't dose granny in the hope of her sleeping longer than 4am! The same goes for young children. Anti-histamines can actually cause hyperactivity making it harder for  you to get them down.

Prone to sleep walking or other weird sleep behaviours? DON'T take anti-histamines as you may find yourself doing even more strange things in your sleep more of the time. 

Pregnant and struggling to sleep? Breastfeeding and hoping to sleep longer than an hour or two at a time? DON'T take anti-histamines. Their safety has not yet been established so allergies and poor sleep are another symptom you may simply have to put up with.



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