(based on Consumer Reports, February 2017)
Insomnia is a very common affliction in our modern society. Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids, such as Advil PM, Nytol, Tylenol PM, and ZzzQuil, often contain diphenhydramine, an anti-histamine used in treatment of seasonal allergies (also known as Benadryl). Though not proven addictive in humans in the physical sense, such sleep aids can cause psychological dependence. Common side-effects include next-day drowsiness and, paradoxically, sleeplessness. Studies of diphenhydramine in animals have shown that it can actually be physically addictive, not unlike cocaine!
Alternatives to medical sleep aids in insomnia include various relaxation techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cutting down caffeine, and avoiding late eating. Melatonin, widely used for insomnia, has only been shown to be useful to combat jet lag, rather than for chronic insomnia. It may cause next-day grogginess, nausea, dizziness, and may interfere with blood pressure and diabetes medications. Certain food items may enhance sleep. They include warm milk, malted milk, kiwi fruit, and tart cherry juice.