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OTC Sleep Aids: A Problematic Solution for Occasional Insomnia

January 23, 2013

Can't SleepAmericans leads incredibly busy lives. Between the demands of work, family, and leisure activities, it seems we never get any down time. Unfortunately, this on-the-go lifestyle can have a significantly negative impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 48% of American adults report having occasional insomnia and many of them turn to over-the-counter sleep aids as a way to get the sleep they need. While OTC sleep aids can help you fall asleep, they can also cause problems. Your Erlanger dentist, Dr. Darlene Sand Wall, discusses the impact OTC sleep aids can have on oral health and offers some solutions to help you rest.

About OTC Sleep Aids

Most conventional over-the-counter sleep aids contain an antihistamine as the primary ingredient. Normally used to combat allergies and colds, the most common side effects of antihistamines include feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. While an antihistamine-containing sleep aid can certainly help you achieve a good night’s sleep on occasion, they also have several unwanted side effects, including:

  • Feeling groggy or sleepy the day after usage.
  • Most people build up a tolerance to these sleep aids very quickly, so they have to take a higher, potentially unsafe dosage.
  • OTC sleep aids counteract badly with alcohol and some prescription medications.

OTC Sleep Aids and Dry Mouth

One undesired side effect of sleep aids that contain antihistamines is their drying effect on the mouth. In addition to an unpleasant, cotton-mouthed feeling, dry mouth can lead to significant oral health problems. Saliva serves several key purposes in the mouth, including washing away dead cells, bacteria, and particles of food. If healthy saliva levels drop, all of these materials begin to build up on the tongue, at the gum line, and between teeth. This can result in bad breath and an increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

A Surprising Cause of Insomnia (and How Your Dentist Can Help!)

Many people who suffer from insomnia or who report feeling chronically tired or sleepy during the day can blame obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, for their problem. When a person sleeps, the muscles in their airway relax. In a person with OSA, the airway relaxes so much that it interferes with their ability to breath. The airway closes and the person’s brain, sensing that the body isn’t receiving enough oxygen, forces the person to wake up. These episodes of wakefulness can occur hundreds of time a night, resulting in poor sleep quality. Many OSA sufferers take OTC sleep aids in an attempt to get better sleep but they do nothing to address the root of the problem. Your dentist can prescribe a custom-fitted mouthpiece that pushes your jaw forward and reduces the level of airway obstruction. Once the underlying problem of sleep apnea is addressed, most patients no longer need to rely on sleep aids to get the sleep they need.

Schedule an Appointment for a Better Night’s Sleep

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Darlene Sand Wall, call our Kentucky dental office at (859) 344 – 8500. We gladly serve patients from Cincinnati, Crestview Hills, Fort Mitchell, Florence, Union, Independence, Taylor Mill, and surrounding communities.

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