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Diphenhydramine (Nytol)

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Diphenhydramine (Nytol) is a medication used to treat short-term insomnia for ages 16 years and over. It is known as a P medication (P stands for pharmacy), and it can be bought from a pharmacy after a discussion with the pharmacist or counter assistant to ensure it is suitable for use. It belongs to a family of medications called antihistamines. It can also be found in creams, used for the relief of bites and stings, and in cold and flu preparations to aid with runny and itchy noses and to aid sleep if symptoms are bothersome at night-time.

When would I take Nytol?

Nytol is licensed for short-term use to treat insomnia. If you are temporarily struggling to sleep at night due to stress or worry, then the first thing to consider would be some sleep hygiene tips. Avoiding laptop and phone screens for the hours running up to bedtime, keep your phone out of the bedroom, running a bath or having a hot drink as part of a going to bed routine, avoid alcohol or drugs that can cause poor quality sleep.

Sometimes, medications may be needed. Nytol can help sleep for a short period of time, and insomnia or lack of sleep can be deeply distressing. Taking sleep aids like Nytol for temporary relief may be beneficial if this is affecting your mental and physical well-being.

How does diphenhydramine work?

Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that can cause drowsiness by acting on histamine receptors in the brain. It can reduce the time taken to fall asleep, and also the depth and quality of sleep. Take it 20 - 30 mins before bedtime, its maximal effect may be experienced after 1 hour.

Whilst they may help with getting you off to sleep, the medication can actually reduce the quality of the sleep you get. The medication can cause your body to spend longer in light sleep stages rather than its more restorative deeper sleep. It is useful to help aid sleep when there are temporary disturbances in sleep such as stress or anxiety.

How long can I take it for?

Nytol is licensed for the treatment of short-term insomnia only and used for a maximum of 2 weeks at a time. This is because taking sleeping tablets for extended periods for time may make your insomnia worse. Over extended periods of time, your body can become dependent on sleeping tablets to help you sleep and you may find you need a higher dose for it to work.

It is best taken sparingly and only as needed. If possible, it may be best to take breaks in-between taking sleeping tablets, for example, 2 - 3 nights a week if tolerated. Otherwise, stick to the maximum period of 2 weeks of treatment.

If you are still finding it hard to sleep or find you still need to take Nytol after the 2 weeks treatment, talk to your doctor who will be able to advise you. You may also find it useful to try non-drug therapy to solve the cause of your insomnia, focusing on good sleep hygiene.

Are there any side-effects?

Common side effects include altered mental attention, dizziness, dry mouth, and blurred vision. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking this medication. Alcohol will enhance the medications' effects, so avoid taking them together.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023
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