Taking Nyquil for Sleep

Nyquil is a common cold and flu relief medication that is sold over-the-counter in either liquid or pill form. It is usually used to relieve coughing but it also produces a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. Additionally, some people who have conditions with associated pain use Nyquil to help maintain a pain-free state of sleep.

Because Nyquil is thought to produce a deep and enduring state of sleep, people often ask: can you take Nyquil just to sleep? Or: can I use Nyquil as a sleep aid? To answer these questions, a few aspects of Nyquil need to be considered.

Nyquil for Sleep | Taking Nyquil for Sleep
The main component of Nyquil is Doxylamine Succinate, an antihistamine that causes drowsiness by blocking histamine from attaching to receptors in the brain. Because doxylamine succinate doesn’t discriminate between which histamine receptors they block, they cross the blood-brain barrier and inhibit receptors that are involved with the regulation of sleep (just one of the important functions of histamines). The disruption of this particular function of histamines in the brain results in drowsiness.

Nyquil also includes the ingredient dextromethorphan HBr, which is included in the medication to suppress coughing. However, as it metabolizes in the body, it becomes dextrorphan (DXO) and levorphanol. Levorphanol is a painkiller, reported to be five times more powerful than morphine. Listed as a dissociative drug by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, DXO is an NMDA receptor antagonist psychoactive that acts primarily as an antitussive (cough suppressant) but has dissociative hallucinogenic properties –like those found when using ketamine, DXM (dextromethorphan) and PCP (phencyclidine).

Even though Nyquil contains components that are specifically designed to induce sleep, relying on the medication for sleep is not advised. Use of Nyquil, as with any drug that is said to assist with either falling asleep or maintaining sleep throughout the night, may lead to several problems.
Using Nyquil as a sleep aid is known to make people drowsy and fall asleep. The duration of sleep can vary depending on the person. For some, taking Nyquil is good for sleeping between four to six hours while for others sleep lasts between seven to eight hours.  For most people, sleep is calm and continuous; however, some people have reported experiencing disrupted sleep, often involving lucid and weird dreams, increased anxiety, breathing stoppage and trouble falling back to sleep. This can lead people to consume more of the drug in a shorter time period in order to get back to sleep.
According to Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “When used as directed, Nyquil does not present substantial risks, even with repeated use. It is better to stop using it for sleep-inducing purposes.” So, while using Nyquil as directed is thought to be safe, taking it in ways that are not recommended can be dangerous.

As one becomes more accustomed to the positive effects brought on by drinking Nyquil, they may become psychologically addicted to using Nyquil. For these people, the thought of attempting to go to sleep without using Nyquil brings on anxiety. This anxiety then motivates them to use the product. However, people who have become addicted to Nyquil sometimes notice that, over time, the typical amount that they consume does not produce the same effect. Instead, it may take longer to fall asleep or they may not be sleeping as long. Taking larger doses or more frequent doses usually indicates that the body has developed a tolerance to the drug, and is likely to have formed a dependence and addiction.

As with any drug, this situation should be treated as a serious condition. Withdrawal symptoms can occur, and the individual should seek assistance from medical and/or mental health providers in order to overcome the addiction.

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