OTC sleep aids carry risk, Consumer Reports says

Warns of psychological dependency

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - 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, according to Consumer Reports.

A 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 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 says 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.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.