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Addiction to Excedrin PM

OhioOhio Registered User
edited December 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
I've never been a good sleeper. I wake up early and am unable to get back to sleep. I am a morning person and so this isn't usually too much a problem.

I find that lately I've been taking one Excedrin PM (which is only half a dose) on the weekends, just to catch up on the sleep I'm missing during the week. It works really well. I fall asleep quickly and stay asleep. In the morning I feel somewhat groggy for a couple hours but overall I'm more rested.

The problem is that it's starting to get in my subconscious - should I take one tonight or not? Since I've been off work some extra days for Christmas, I took a pill on Thursday and Friday night - and slept great. I got worried at myself, though, and so didn't take one Saturday night. And what happened? I woke up Sunday morning at 6am and that was it. And now I feel like crap from only sleeping 6 hours. My immediate thought is "I'm taking a pill tonight" which strikes me as a dangerous thought to have.

I have heard of "non habit forming" sleep aids which I don't quite understand. It seems that for me, the habit isn't in the drug itself, but in the subconscious thought that I won't be able to get a good night's sleep without taking it.

So like I said, it's only half a dose, it works really well, but I'm worried about wanting one every night. How bad is that?

Ohio on

Posts

  • AlpineAlpine Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Obviously this isn't a super urgent "doctor, now" thread, but if you have a family doctor or GP, you might want to set up a quick appointment. He can tell you what the side effects might be, and can recommend alternatives such as a sleep clinic.

    What is your daily routine like? What is your diet like and when during the day are you eating?

  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Well, first of all, you should know what you're taking before you take it. In the case of Excedrin PM, it's acetaminophen and diphenhydramine, common names Tylenol and Benadryl. So, you're dosing yourself with Tylenol when you don't have any pain, which is a bad idea, because it's not good for your liver. Stop that. At the very least, you need to just buy yourself some generic diphenhydramine.

    Diphenhydramine, like any sleep aid, is potentially habit-forming. Have you formed a habit after taking it twice? Almost certainly not. That being said, in the long run, it's going to be better for you if you can find a non-chemical way to deal with your issue. Do you exercise? Because that's the first, easiest way to deal with it. Next-easiest thing is diet. A well-balanced, healthy diet, with multiple meals spread throughout the day is only going to help things.

    That being said, waking up at the same time every morning is a sign of a good, healthy sleep cycle, not a problem. You either need to work on adjusting your wake-up time in the morning to be a bit later, or going to bed earlier.

  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Excedrin PM is a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Aside from the main effect of diphenhydramine (as an antihistimine, blocks H1 receptors), it also has weak serotonin reuptake inhibitory effects. I emphasize weak, because it's nowhere near the level of the class of drugs known as SSRIs (Paxil/fluoxetine), at least at the dose of the over the counter medication. It can be physiologically habit forming, especially since diphenhydramine has been shown to build up tolerance quickly. In higher doses, it may cause some cardiac complications, and it can have mild anti-cholinergic effects.

    This being said, it is a safer sleep aid than most of the other things out there. Use it in moderation (if you are using it on more days a week than you aren't, you have a serious problem), and do NOT use it in conjunction with alcohol (acetaminophen is liver toxic). I've used benadryl during winter months when I can't get sleep. It induces a deep and drowsy sleep for me, and I really don't wake up as refreshed as when I'm just getting in my 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

    Steam ID: Hahnsoo, Steam Name currently: Hahnsopolis | PSN: Hahnsoo | Monster Hunter Tri: Hahnsoo, E8HJCA
  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    I won't speak on the chemical side of things, and if someone could confirm/deny my statement it would be very much appreciated.

    I had a really nasty period of my life where I found myself "needing" something to get to sleep every night, suffice to say I would, psychologically, be unable to sleep unless I drugged myself up in one way or another. In short, I sometimes take melatonin before sleep in order to "promote healthy sleeping patters." It is available over the counter and generally knocks me out within 30 minutes of taking the pill. I find myself better rested and more energetic when I take some before sleep.

    I do not take melatonin every night, though. My suspicion (confirmed by some google research) is that in low-doses the supplement is healthy and much less toxic than using something such as Excedrin PM.

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  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Melatonin can be an effective way to regulate your sleep patterns. GPs recommend it all the time.

    The problem with melatonin is that it's an over-the-counter dietary supplement. This means that it's not regulated. There's really no telling what could also be in those melatonin capsules (including diphenhydramine, oddly enough). The dosages for melatonin are not regulated, either, so you may be taking 50mg one day and 10mg the next, even though you only took one pill each day.

    Luckily, it doesn't seem to have short term side effects. You can also build up a tolerance to melatonin, and some folks have become physiologically addicted to its use. Diphenhydramine is still a safe bet, though, as long as you take it in moderation... it's just as "toxic" as melatonin.

    Steam ID: Hahnsoo, Steam Name currently: Hahnsopolis | PSN: Hahnsoo | Monster Hunter Tri: Hahnsoo, E8HJCA
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Hahnsoo1 wrote: »
    Melatonin can be an effective way to regulate your sleep patterns. GPs recommend it all the time.

    The problem with melatonin is that it's an over-the-counter dietary supplement. This means that it's not regulated. There's really no telling what could also be in those melatonin capsules (including diphenhydramine, oddly enough). The dosages for melatonin are not regulated, either, so you may be taking 50mg one day and 10mg the next, even though you only took one pill each day.

    Luckily, it doesn't seem to have short term side effects. You can also build up a tolerance to melatonin, and some folks have become physiologically addicted to its use. Diphenhydramine is still a safe bet, though, as long as you take it in moderation... it's just as "toxic" as melatonin.
    It's worth noting that melatonin is the chemical that your brain uses to tell you you're tired. In addition to the issues Hahnsoo mentioned, there's also the possibility that relying on melatonin over a long period of time could cause your body to naturally start producing less of it (see also: lactaid, for people who are lactose intolerant). Yes, it's "all natural," but so is hemlock.

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    so i have horrible sleep patterns and was taking melatonin for a while. i took it every night for a week, and i never slept better, it wa a huge difference. after that week or so i stoped taking it and honestly its effects have lasted. i occaisonally take one if its really bad, but i haven't had the need. i was worried i would have to take one when i did but once i got over that psychological need, i realized that my sleeping was much better and didn't need the pill

    camo_sig.png
  • AresProphetAresProphet you would look a little better don't you know if you just wore less makeupRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    mts wrote: »
    so i have horrible sleep patterns and was taking melatonin for a while. i took it every night for a week, and i never slept better, it wa a huge difference. after that week or so i stoped taking it and honestly its effects have lasted. i occaisonally take one if its really bad, but i haven't had the need. i was worried i would have to take one when i did but once i got over that psychological need, i realized that my sleeping was much better and didn't need the pill

    There is a concept called "sleep hygiene" which is basically the idea that if you sleep regularly, you'll continue to sleep regularly. Do the same things before bed, go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, and so on.

    It's also basically the only way to get regular sleep. The way humans work, if you go to bed at a different time every night your body just isn't going to know what to do. Sleep aids are never a long term solution and never should be trated as such. The best then can do is "break the cycle" so to speak, and let you get into a healthy, regular pattern of sleep. Melatonin can do this for some people, others might need something like Ambien, but the truth is that the vast majority of people who have trouble sleeping will discover that they no longer have trouble sleeping if they adhere to a strict sleep hygiene.

    All but the worst of insomniacs will continue to sleep better after discontinuing sleep aids, as long as they stick to their regular cycle. Yes, some sleep aids can be habit forming and you'll lose the ability to sleep normally, but only if you abuse them. Using them as prescribed + getting into a fixed pattern of sleep = healthy sleep cycle within about a week.

    Occasionally you get clinical insomniacs who can't sleep because of more serious problems, but almost none of the sleep drugs you hear about are intended to treat chronic insomnia.

    but it's hard to realize
    when you're sky high
    fighting off the spaceships
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Ohio wrote: »
    I've never been a good sleeper. I wake up early and am unable to get back to sleep. I am a morning person and so this isn't usually too much a problem.

    I find that lately I've been taking one Excedrin PM (which is only half a dose) on the weekends, just to catch up on the sleep I'm missing during the week. It works really well. I fall asleep quickly and stay asleep. In the morning I feel somewhat groggy for a couple hours but overall I'm more rested.

    The problem is that it's starting to get in my subconscious - should I take one tonight or not? Since I've been off work some extra days for Christmas, I took a pill on Thursday and Friday night - and slept great. I got worried at myself, though, and so didn't take one Saturday night. And what happened? I woke up Sunday morning at 6am and that was it. And now I feel like crap from only sleeping 6 hours. My immediate thought is "I'm taking a pill tonight" which strikes me as a dangerous thought to have.

    I have heard of "non habit forming" sleep aids which I don't quite understand. It seems that for me, the habit isn't in the drug itself, but in the subconscious thought that I won't be able to get a good night's sleep without taking it.

    So like I said, it's only half a dose, it works really well, but I'm worried about wanting one every night. How bad is that?

    It is not possible to "catch up" on sleep. I am willing to wager that you could just as easily work out and sleep in a bit on weekends and be just as well off. The PM part in most over the counter stuff just means "without caffeine" because caffeine helps with speeding pain relief. If there were any useful amount of a sleep aide in the stuff, it wouldn't be over the counter.

  • OhioOhio Registered User
    edited December 2008
    I do work out regularly and eat a healthy diet. I am fit and healthy so it's not that.

    My problem is more psychological. If I don't take a pill, I lay there thinking, "I'm never going to get to sleep because I didn't take one" and it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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