Ask SleepBetter: Family Benadryl Debate

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is about a family dispute over sleep:

“My daughter in law gives her children, ages 11 and six, Benadryl every night.  This has been going on now for 2 years or so.  She says the doctor told her it was fine. She told me it’s for the snoring. Please answer me and let me know what to do. I think it is wrong.”
-Name Withheld (via email)

This is just the latest of many, many Benadryl questions we receive.  We try to stay out of family arguments, but your question troubles us. Here are the facts you can present to your daughter-in-law:

Diphenhydramine, the main drug in Benadryl, is primarily used as a decongestant. It also has the side-effect of making the user sleepy.  As a result, it is used by many people as a sleep aid. In fact, it can actually be found in some over-the-counter sleep aids like Zzzzquil. What’s troubling, however, is that you said it’s used every night. No sleep aid is meant to be used day after day after day. They are all meant to be used occasionally or for short periods. Those who take diphenhydramine for extended periods of time may experience low blood pressure and heart palpitations. Also, those who continue to take the drug every night may physically need more and more of it to receive the desired result.

If you can convince your daughter to stop having her children take Benadryl every night, it might be best to have her wean them off of the drug slowly — perhaps bit by bit over a two week period.

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