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Diphenhydramine (Nytol)

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Diphenhydramine (Nytol) is a medication used to treat short-term insomnia for ages 12 years and over. It belongs to a family of medications called antihistamines. It can also be found in creams and other oral formulations, used to relieve bites and stings, allergies, 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, keeping your phone out of the bedroom, running a bath or having a hot drink as part of a going-to-bed routine, and avoiding 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 it 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 but may also reduce the depth and quality of sleep. Take it 20 - 30 minutes before bedtime; its maximal effect may be experienced after 1 hour.

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

How long can I take it?

Nytol is licensed for the short-term treatment of insomnia and should only be used for a maximum of 2 weeks at a time. This is because taking sleeping medications for extended periods of time may make your insomnia worse. Your body can become dependent on them 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 medications, 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 of 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 take it if you have breathing problems, glaucoma, or an enlarged prostate. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking this medication. Alcohol will enhance the effects, so avoid taking them together.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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