Let's not beat around the bush: When your cold is at its worst and you're aching, shivering, coughing and you can't breathe, many of us turn to that famous multisymptom nighttime cold medicine that claims to help us sleep.
NyQuil and medicines like it contain ingredients such as dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant. This particular ingredient can also cause hallucinations. This effect usually occurs only when taken in dangerously high doses, but some people can feel these effects even with lower doses. Another common ingredient in multisymptom nighttime cold medicines, the antihistamine doxylamine succinate, works to combat sneezing and runny noses. But it also functions as a sleep aid. Finally, there's often alcohol in the ingredient list as well. So there's a reason why medications are dubbed "nighttime" -- they can make you feel groggy, woozy and drowsy. Taking them at any other time is a recipe for disaster unless you're prepared to stay in bed all day.
On the other hand, taking a daytime cold-reduction medicine can result in a sleepless night. Mainly we're talking about decongestants here, which you can buy singly or as part of a multisymptom medication. Phenylephrine, the most commonly used over-the-counter decongestant in the United States, can cause restlessness, irritability, dizziness and sleeplessness. Look for cold-reduction medicines that are labeled "non-drowsy" if you need to be able to function during the day while you're sick.
There's nothing fun about having a cold, but with a little knowledge and research, you can find relief from your symptoms when you choose the right cold reduction medicine. Feel better soon!
- Alexander, Tania. "How to choose the right cure when you're full of cold symptoms." Daily Mail Online. Nov. 26, 2007 (Oct. 30, 2010)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-496602/How-choose-right-cure-youre-cold-symptoms.html
- AskDrSears. "Cold and Cough Medicine Guide." AskDrSears.com. 2008. (Oct. 30, 2010)http://www.askdrsears.com/html/8/T089800.asp
- DiJusto, Patrick. "What's Inside: NyQuil." Wired Magazine. Oct. 23, 2007. (Nov. 1, 2010)http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/15-11/st_nyquil
- Food & Drug Administration. "FDA Releases Recommendations Regarding Use of Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Products." FDA. June 18, 2009 (Nov. 2, 2010)http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2008/ucm116839.htm
- Harvard Health Publications. "Cough Medicines: Which cold and cough medications are ineffective?" Harvard Letter. May 2010. (Oct. 30, 2010)http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/cough-medicines
- Proctor & Gamble. "DayQuil Cold & Flu Relief Liquid Medicine Package Information." Vicks.com. 2010 (Nov. 1, 2010)http://www.vicks.com/products/dayquil/cold-flu-liquid-medicine/
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Common cold." Medline Encyclopedia. Jan. 10, 2010 (Nov. 1, 2010)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000678.htm
- WebMD. "Cold Medicine and Treatment: When? What? How?" WebMD. 2010 (Oct. 31, 2010)http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/cold-medicine-treatment-when-what-how
HowStuffWorks finds out about the history and lessons of the Spanish flu pandemic, 100 years later.