Sleep expert Dr. Raj Dasgupta said he’s also concerned that people are taking medicines to induce drowsiness that contain other active ingredients.
“It’s scary that people will take these medications for their sleeping effects,” said Dasgupta, an assistant professor with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “They sometimes don’t realize they’re getting other medications along with the sleep aid.”
For example, Advil PM contains ibuprofen, a pain reliever that can cause gastrointestinal problems and ulcers if overused, he said.
Dasgupta added that Tylenol PM also contains acetaminophen, a pain reliever that can be hard on the liver -- especially if taken while also drinking alcohol.
Consumer Reports is concerned that people might become psychologically dependent on these over-the-counter sleep aids, Gill said, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to state that the drugs are non-habit-forming.
Dasgupta agreed that psychological dependence is a concern regarding these sleep aids.
“Being a physician, caring about my patients, if they are going to ask me if one of these medications is addicting, I am going to be honest and say there’s a chance it can be addicting,” he said. “Because they’re sold over the counter, there isn’t a physician there to make that statement.”