Harvard medicine professor warns against using common over-the-counter sleep aids.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in 2017 officially recommended against treating chronic insomnia with common over-the-counter antihistamine and analgesic sleep aids as well as herbal and nutritional substances, such as valerian and melatonin, because there is not enough evidence that they are effective or safe. “And there are definite concerns about their risks,” says Dr. Suzanne Bertisch, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
These risks include short-term problems such as daytime sleepiness, grogginess, and falls. In addition, most sleep aids fall into a category of drugs known as anticholinergics, which have been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among heavy, long-term users, she says.