OTC Sleep Aids

If you’re struggling with insomnia, you might want to think twice before you reach for over-the-counter sleep aids. Many of the drugs are labeled “non-habit forming”, but Consumer Reports reveals potential risks in taking them.

Although some ingredients are not physically addictive, there can be a risk of psychological dependency. A Consumer Reports national survey found 20-percent have taken over-the-counter sleep medication within a year and in that group, almost one in five took them daily. Most concerning: 41 percent said they took them for a year or longer.

At the time of their approval as over-the-counter sleep aids, there was not enough evidence to show that the drugs caused dependence so the label “non-habit forming” still remains.

The FDA tells Consumer Reports using a sleep aid for two weeks or less at the labeled dose makes it “…very unlikely that the consumer will become dependent on it.”

Over-the-counter sleep aids also carry warnings: they can cause serious side effects like next-day drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, and frequent use can increase the risk of dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease. If your insomnia is persistent, it’s time to see your doctor.


Consumer Reports TV News® is published by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept advertising and does not have any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright © 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. All rights reserved.

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