Warning: 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. In fact a Consumer Reports national survey found 20-percent have taken over-the-counter sleep medication within a year. And in that group almost 1 in 5 took them daily. Most concerning – 41% 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 2 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.