It’s no secret that catching a cold or flu directly messes with our sleep. Sore throat, congested nose, blocked ears are all the reasons why we may face difficulties falling asleep. One of the good ways to treat problems with sleep associated with cold or illness, in general, is cold medicines one of which is NyQuil.
But, while it may be safe to use pills like NyQuil to aid our sleep during the days we are sick, is it safe to consider it a long-term sleep aid? Let’s take a look at how NyQuil works and whether it’s safe to use it as a sleep aid.
What is NyQuil
NyQuil is a type of over-the-counter medication that can relieve the symptoms of common cold, flu, hay fever, and other types of illnesses that are either caused by the virus and bacteria or seasonal allergies. It’s extremely beneficial at soothing the symptoms of sore throat and coughing. However, one of the effects it also produces are drowsiness and relaxation.
The two effects are especially beneficial to people who are having trouble falling asleep. However, it’s mainly effective when it comes to soothing the symptoms of cold and flu. As mentioned before, sore throat, congested nose, and other symptoms of cold or flu often make it difficult to sleep. Soothing cough with the medicine and relieving effects of sleep helps a lot of people fall asleep.
The medicine that is manufactured and sold by the U.S.-based company called Vicks will also soothe other symptoms of illness such as migraines and headaches, fever, sneezing, and others. It is recommended for children above the age of 6 and is genuinely considered safe and with minimal side-effects if consumed short-term and properly.
NyQuil is made out of three primary, active ingredients:
- Dextromethorphan (DMX)
It’s important to highlight what each one of them does to understand how this medicine causes people to feel sleepy and drowsy, and eventually sleep easier.
Acetaminophen is a common material in analgesics and medicines that are used to relieve pain and drop body temperatures. This type of material is also responsible for lowering the body temperature and helps alleviate muscle and joint aches, as long as they’re not too strong. With that in mind, these ingredients will help you lower the aching associated with sore throat and persistent cough while lowering your fever.
Dextromethorphan is the second ingredient that is responsible for helping reduce persistent cough episodes. It’s often used with viral and bacterial infections that cause a dry cough that lasts for over an hour or multiple coughing episodes throughout the day.
Finally, doxylamine is an antihistamine. Antihistamines are used for seasonal and other types of allergies. When our body is exposed to allergens, our body reacts by releasing the materials called histamines that directly attack your body and immunity. Antihistamines help get rid of these chemicals and reduce the symptoms of allergies.
In addition to that, antihistamines are responsible for helping relieve running and congested nose. They also help with persistent coughing and sneezing, which ultimately helps relieve the symptoms of common cold and flu.
When combined, all three ingredients help NyQuil relieve the short-term symptoms of cold and flu. However, for stronger and more persistent infections, stronger and more effective medicines are used. In case of a strong bacterial infection followed by a high fever, your healthcare provider may even prescribe you an antibiotic.
Link Between NyQuil And Sleeping
Earlier we detailed the key ingredients of NyQuil. Out of three, doxylamine stands out the most. All antihistamines are known to have soothing effects which ultimately result in feeling more sleepy and drowsy.
In that sense, doxylamine will help you sleep easier and more comfortable, while your body is fighting off the ailment. Even though it’s good to sleep and rest a lot during the NyQuil treatment, drowsiness in the night can extend into drowsiness during the day, which also leads to people feeling nervous and irritable.
Dextromethorphan is also partially to blame for sleepiness and drowsiness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists it as a dissociative drug, due to the DXM effect of it when it’s metabolizing in the body. Aside from cough soothing effects, it can also produce dissociative hallucinogenic traits. However, they are not so prominent in NyQuil which makes it safe to use, but not abuse.
Should You Use NyQuil As Sleep Aid?
NyQuil is good at treating viral and bacterial infections. Furthermore, its effects are only short-term. While taking NyQuil as a sleep aid while having a cold or flu is more than advisable, it shouldn’t turn into a habit even after you start feeling better.
NyQuil is genuinely considered safe, but if used daily and long-term, you could end up developing an addiction to it, and the inability to fall asleep peacefully while consuming it. With that in mind, not only abusing NyQuil is bad (as goes with every other medicine) it can also produce unwanted side-effects which we will detail below.
Side-Effects of Taking NyQuil As Sleep Aid
Just like with every medicine, using NyQuil has some potential side-effects. Abusing the mentioned medicine can lead to even more side-effects.
Taking NyQuil can either cause you to have shorter, but deeper sleep, or longer sleep. It all depends on individual factors, like how you react to the medicine. Other factors include age, weight, whether there’s an allergic reaction to the medicine, and others.
Fortunately, most of NyQuil’s side effects are mild and don’t require the care or seeking the attention of your healthcare provider.
Some people who used NyQuil more frequently between short pauses and periods reported experiencing anxiety and drowsiness, as well as irritability while being awake. On the other hand, some people experienced having odd dreams that were either just lucid dreams or sleep paralysis. Some people also reported not feel asleep at all, or wake up more frequently during the night.
Other than that, there are other side-effects associated with abusing NyQuil as a sleep aid.
- Split or blurred vision
- Feeling dry mouth or throat
- Light or heavy-headed
- Stomach ache and cramps
NyQuil also isn’t advisable for people who’ve drunk alcohol or anti-depressant medicines. You should especially avoid medicines that contain acetaminophen. Abusing the medicine in this condition can result in severe damage to the liver, according to a study.
It’s important to read the medicine label and instructions on the box or syrup bottle. Some people can also experience an allergic reaction to some of the ingredients in the medicine.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- Throat congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
When to See The Doctor?
NyQuil addiction is more than possible, especially when someone is unable to fall asleep without using the medication even after they recovered from their illness. The doctor will determine whether you’re addicted to medicine and suggest rehab therapy get rid of the addiction.
Unfortunately, withdrawal symptoms from NyQuil vary and can be milder and more intense depending on the scale of addiction. Sometimes, the withdrawal process may resemble opioids and cocaine withdrawal, but it’s easier with medical support.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Nausea and cramps
While withdrawing from the NyQuil addiction is much easier with medical support, the side effects of withdrawal are usually harder to avoid. That’s why symptoms of withdrawal often prevent the patients from achieving their goals and giving up on the medicine.
Some cases could even lead to strong medical detox that is often supervised by experts from rehab institutions.
Natural Alternatives to NyQuil
NyQuil and other over-the-counter medicines that help with aiding common cold and flu are effective only short-term. While they’re effective at helping you sleep through strong flu symptoms, they are not asleep aid and shouldn’t be used after you recover.
To avoid potential problems with addiction and various side-effects that come with it, let’s take a look at some natural sleep aids, that can help you fall asleep easier.
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. Although it is released by our body, it can also be used as a dietary supplement. It’s a great aid to treat short-term insomnia. One study found high effectiveness in using melatonin for promoting a healthy sleep cycle.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that helps with the nervous system and muscle relaxation and is often used as a sleep aid. There are many types of magnesium, and many of those types are good for promoting healthy sleep. Another study found improvement over insomnia symptoms when using magnesium as a sleep aid.
Keep in mind that if you are facing difficulties falling or staying asleep frequently, you may be suffering from insomnia or some other sleep disorder. Make sure to consult your healthcare provider in finding effective treatment that will help you treat insomnia. It’s certainly better than relying on cold medicines such as NyQuil.
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