Most everyone has suffered from insomnia from time to time, either due to stress or bad lifestyle habits that throw off their natural circadian rhythms. For most people, this problem resolves over time; however, for many, it can progress into something called maintenance insomnia, which results in frequent, unexplained waking throughout the night.
To encourage longer periods of sleep, many people rely on over-the-counter sleep aids, such as Tylenol PM, Nytrol, Benadryl and more. Known as anticholinergics, these drugs promote sleepiness. Unfortunately, a new study suggests they could also promote cognitive decline that may last for decades.
Research Yields Scary Results
A recent study published in the journal Neurology suggests that OTC sleep aids may be doing more harm than good. According to researchers, subjects who used anticholinergics to try to beat insomnia showed signs of permanent mental decline. Until now, few studies have looked at the long-term impact of these drugs; however, after just this one study, the researchers felt confident enough to suggest that limiting the use of these drugs could be merited.
What if You Have Sleep Apnea?
Maintenance insomnia is a big problem for people who suffer from sleep apnea, because breathing problems tend to lead to frequent waking. OTC sleep aids tend to prove useless to sleep apneics anyway; now research suggests they could be dangerous.