Most Americans are currently taking, or have previously taken over-the-counter drugs for colds, allergies, or pain relief. Most of them contain a chemical called diphenhydramine that has become available without prescription in recent years; even sleep aids like Excedrin PM and Tylenol PM contain it. What can be problematic is that most people arent aware that these drugs all have one thing in common: they all contain chemicals that block neurotransmitters that control numerous processes within the body. Basically, drugs like these which are intended to affect one part of the body can have effects on a number of different bodily functions, producing a wide range of side effects that can vary from constipation all the way to symptoms that are similar to those of Alzheimers disease.
Think of it as the human bodys version of the butterfly effect. Known to the medical world as dirty drugs, these agents can cause serious problems in areas of the body that arent even close to what it was intended to treat. For example, a drug designed to calm the bladder can also cause eye dryness because it will block the receptors that control secretion of bodily fluids like tears. Most of the effects on cognitive functions will go away once the drugs are stopped, though full recovery can depend on a number of factors ranging from age to whether or not the person had any preexisting health conditions that may hamper the process.
Allergy drugs, especially older ones like Benadryl, are prime suspects in this case. They will perform wonders as far as relieving sneezing, runny nose, or itchy eyes because they stop the secretion of the fluids which cause the symptoms. However, youre also likely to experience dry eyes, mouth, and drowsiness. If you must take one of these allergy meds, try to only take them at night to avoid daytime drowsiness that cannot be avoided. Your best bet would be to avoid allergens altogether by keeping track of your local pollen count, keeping windows closed, and using the air conditioner instead.
Sleep aids are also among the guilty parties. While they can certainly help to deal with insomnia, they are usually active in the body for up to 18 hours at a time. Other side effects from OTC insomnia drugs are constipation, urinary retention, difficulty concentration, and difficulty focusing. There are many natural and easy ways to help avoid sleeplessness and it all starts with the bedroom itself. No TV, no computers, no phones, no distractions. It has even been proven that a little light can disrupt the bodys sleep cycle, so try to use nightlights that use red light instead of white or blue to ensure that your body isnt fooled into being awoken by light itself in the middle of the night. The white or blue light emitted from TVs or computer monitors will delay the release of melatonin, which helps the body go to sleep.