07 Apr Is your OTC painkiller killing your sleep?
- Key finding: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs) can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep by curbing the production of sleep-promoting melatonin.
APRIL 07, 2021—Does this scenario sound familiar: You have menstrual cramps, premenstrual aches or other pain before bedtime. So, you take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain pill to quell the discomfort to ensure you get some shuteye. But, even though the ouch hurts less, you still can’t fall asleep. Or your sleep is lighter and less restful.
You might chalk it up to whatever soreness or twinge you still feel. But, truth is, the pain pill could be the sleep-robbing culprit.
The pain pill-bad sleep connection
Turns out, this type of medicine thwarts a good night of zzzs two key ways:
It reduces your body’s output of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
And it prevents your core body temperature from dropping, which is a key way your body transitions into sleep.
On nights when you have aches and pains, try alternatives to NSAIDs. You can use natural remedies, such as a heating pad or ginger. And for an OTC alternative, take long-acting acetaminophen (such as Tylenol 8HR) since this drug doesn’t affect melatonin or body temperature, allowing you to drift off quickly and enjoy a sounder snooze. (Note: Be sure to avoid alcohol when taking acetaminophen to avoid the risk of liver problems.)
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(1) Patricia J. Murphy, Bryan L. Myers, Pietro Badia, “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alter body temperature and suppress melatonin in humans”, Physiology & Behavior, 59 (1996): 133-139