Reading the fine print on OTC sleep aids

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If you have trouble sleeping, you're not alone. (WPVI)

If you have trouble sleeping, you're not alone.

Almost 25-percent of people who responded to a Consumer Reports survey said they'd taken an over-the-counter sleep medication in the past year.

One of the sleep aids, called Zzz-Quil rakes in 100-million dollars a year in sales.

We're not saying it's bad, however, there are some side effects you need to know about.

Plus, you could save some money.

ZzzQuil's commercials promise that elusive good night's sleep.

But what is ZzzQuil?

"It's just that same old antihistamine called diphenhydramine, also known by its brand name Benadryl. It's been on the market over 70 years and one of its side effects is drowsiness," says Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.

It's also in Sominex, Simply Sleep, and Unisom Sleep Gels.

And it's the ingredient that's been added to these PM pain relievers to make you sleepy.

You can also buy generic diphenhydramine.

It's exactly the same active ingredient you find in ZzzQuil, but for one tenth the price per dose.

Products containing diphenhydramine do carry warnings.

"You could experience daytime drowsiness or confusion, problems urinating, constipation, dry mouth and there's some evidence that if taken frequently diphenhydramine is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's," says Gill.

Consumer Reports has these cautions when taking any sleep aid:

* Make sure you have a full night's sleep after taking it.

* Don't drive even after a full night's sleep if you still feel drowsy.

* Never mix it with alcohol or other sleep medication.

* And don't take an extra dose if you wake up in the middle of the night.

These medications are intended for short-term use, no longer than 14 days.

If you continue having trouble sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider about another solution.
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