NyQuil and Anxiety

NyQuil and Anxiety
Category: anxiety, insomnia

Sleep Awareness Week (March 13–19 in 2022) is always scheduled by the National Sleep Foundation to coincide with the first week of Daylight Saving Time—not least because, according to medical experts, that annual lost hour of sleep contributes to a surprising number of health and social problems. For some people, these acute problems are addressed with medications like NyQuil.

However, there are over 40 million Americans who would be glad to experience sleep-related challenges only once or twice a year. These are people with chronic, long-term sleep disorders, who can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep, or can’t consistently achieve the deeper stages of sleep—and who spend their official waking hours drowsy, irritable, and anxious.

Sleep difficulties have many causes. One is secondary insomnia, being kept awake by a medical problem—often something as (theoretically) minor as a head cold. Or the similar (but longer-lasting) respiratory symptoms associated with allergies.

About NyQuil

Relieving symptoms that interfere with sleep is the typical reason for taking NyQuil, “the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine.” 

Manufactured by Vicks, NyQuil (specifically, nighttime NyQuil) includes acetaminophen, the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM), the antihistamine doxylamine, and (with the liquid formula) a small amount of alcohol. Dextromethorphan is also a stimulant, but symptom relief plus the calming effects of other ingredients ensures that the overall effect is one of relaxation.

For most people. Although lingering drowsiness is a common side effect, many people who take NyQuil experience nervous anxiety instead. This occurs most often with younger people, which is why parents are warned not to give NyQuil to children under age 12.

And there are other categories of people at risk for experiencing anxiety after taking NyQuil.

Who Gets Anxiety Symptoms from NyQuil?

People with certain types of anxiety disorder. For some people with serious anxiety issues, drowsiness itself is a panic trigger: the emotional reaction is a feeling of losing control, of slipping away from the world. Anyone with such symptoms should definitely consult a doctor before taking medication, over-the-counter or not.

People taking medication for anxiety or depression. The mood-affecting ingredients in NyQuil can interact in unpredictable ways with other mood-affecting drugs. Particularly risky are antidepressants containing SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which can interact with DXM to trigger anxiety attacks—plus muscle tremors, fever, irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, and other dangerous physical effects.

People with personal or family histories of drug addiction. Although NyQuil has limited abuse potential, DXM can cause hallucinations or euphoria in large doses. Some people do seek a recreational high by consuming heavy amounts of liquid NyQuil. And some people do become addicted or physically dependent, experiencing anxiety and other withdrawal symptoms unless they continue taking the drug regularly. (Addiction itself gives people—and their families—plenty to be anxious about.)

Solving Sleep (and Anxiety) Problems Without Drugs

It’s worth emphasizing that NyQuil and similar medications are intended as temporary sleep aids only—not as anything to take every night for life. If you have ongoing sleep problems due to persistent allergies, ask your doctor about alternate ways to manage your symptoms.

In any case, there’s no substitute for overall healthy sleep habits. The same goes for managing anxiety issues (which themselves are frequently the cause, or the result, of sleep difficulties).

In closing, then, here are a few tips for improving sleep and overall peace of mind.

  • Keep your bedroom uncluttered, cool, comfortable, and dark. (Turn off your clock light, too: clock watching is a known contributor to insomnia.)
  • Use your sleeping area exclusively for sleep: not for projects, not for reading, and especially not for anything that involves electronic screens.
  • Maintain regular retiring and getting-up hours, even on weekends.
  • Take a couple of hours before bedtime to wind down without stressful or stimulating activities.
  • Immediately before retiring (and at regular intervals during the day), consciously release your worries to a Higher Power. Declare your independence from feeling responsible for making “everything” run perfectly.
  • Cultivate a focused sense of purpose in life (start by taking an aptitude or personality test to get a clearer picture of what you were made for).
  • Stay busy in ways that serve others and have personal meaning for you.

And remember: in the long run, the best medicine is building self-confidence and taking care of yourself. Often, as overall life quality improves, anxiety and sleep problems—and even physical symptoms such as allergies—clear up on their own, without further need for NyQuil or any other drug.

Find Relief from Medicine Dependence in Hemet, California

Although they have less abuse potential than prescription drugs, NyQuil and similar medications have been implemented in some cases of substance use disorder (drug addiction). Other addictions are due to initially seeking a “high” from over-the-counter medications, then moving up to more powerful substances. Whatever the specific substance of concern, Hemet Valley Recovery Center’s rehab hospital can help you get free and stay free from addiction. Contact us to get started reclaiming your life. 

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