Treating Occasional Sleeplessness with a Nighttime Sleep-Aid

A new study has found that a particular over-the-counter sleeping aid has helped those who suffer from occasional sleeplessness. The study shows that the medication helps them fall asleep in less than 20 minutes, on average, while simultaneously improving their sleep quality. The first of its kind, this study characterizes the benefits of DPH (diphenhydramine HCI), which has been used for a few decades to assist with sleep. New research shows that liquid ZzzQuilTM was used in this study, of which findings were measured both subjectively and objectively.

Researchers presented and discussed these findings at the annual meeting of the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine this month, held in Denver. Director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Thomas Roth, PhD, was one of the lead investigators.

Two important questions about taking non-prescription sleep aids have been answered in these new findings, Dr. Roth states. The first question is, will I be able to fall asleep faster? The second is, will I feel rejuvenated and well rested when I wake up? These findings suggest that DPH can provide those benefits to people who suffer from occasional sleeplessness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that more than a quarter of the American population occasionally has difficulties getting enough sleep, and nearly 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. It has been noted that occasional sleeplessness is less prevalent in men than in women.

This double-blind, placebo-controlled study lasted four to six weeks. Researchers analyzed how DPH affected the participants when compared to the placebo on 33 people who reported occasional sleeplessness. By definition, occasional sleeplessness is two or more nights a week having difficulty falling asleep (taking more than 30 minutes). The assessment was done in their home using three sleep instruments, two of which were objective and one subjective. These instruments were used to evaluate the efficacy of 50 mg of DPH.

There was ethnic diversity in the group, with an average age in the 40’s.

DPH improved a few sleep measures. The principle findings include:

  • On average, participants fell asleep 8 minutes faster than those who had the placebo, as found on the primary objective measure.
  • Those on DPH reported that they not only fell asleep faster, but they stayed asleep longer, and they had better sleep quality.
  • There were no differences in the time in bed or number of awakenings throughout the night between the placebo and DPH groups.

Andrew N. Carr, PhD, co-author of the study and a clinical scientist with Procter & Gamble, states that while there is research in the past that shows the link between health and sleep, even the smallest sleep deficiency can disrupt life in a variety of ways, like having a setback in daily routines and exacerbating chronic diseases. This research has validated the use of DPH in people who are suffering from occasional sleep disturbances, allowing them to fall asleep faster and get the best quality of sleep they can to feel well-rested and rejuvenated upon awakening. It is a unique approach, says Dr. Carr, which enables researchers in future studies to understand how these OTC products can impact day-to-day life and activities of those who are in need of a little bit of sleep assistance.

Dipphenhydramine HCI was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1946 as a prescription antihistamine medication. It was then approved in 1982 for OTC use to treat occasional difficulty sleeping. Other sleep aids include melatonin.


Author: Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.


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