November 30, 2010

A Tylenol PM Slip

One problem I've found with 5-HTP is that my sleep can be very fragmented, interrupted by 3 or 4 or more "pee breaks" during the night.  Most of the time I fall back to sleep immediately but sometimes, particularly if it's a 5 a.m. or thereabouts break, I'll lie awake for 15-30 minutes before getting back to sleep. But since 5-HTP also stabilizes my mood, I'm calm and relaxed during the time awake. And then I usually log in another 2 hours of sleep.

Every once in awhile, however, I decide it would be nice to have a less interrupted night's sleep and I take two Tylenol PM's rather than the 5-HTP at bedtime. That's what I did last night and I logged in 7-plus hours of sleep with only one  break. 

I do this rarely because I have had a bad experience with extended use of Tylenol PM.  Since 2001, I've made a dozen or more trips to Nepal and neighboring countries. To deal with the jet lag from the long flights coming and going, I would use Tylenol PM for the first few post-flight days.  Sometimes I've continued to use it off and on during the  two or three weeks I'm traveling. And, I'm embarrassed to admit, on particularly difficult nights I sometimes would throw in half of an Ambien. As a recovering alcoholic, I should know better than to abuse drugs like this!  

Beginning in June 2006, I had probably my worst summer ever -- several difficult months marked by insomnia, depression and panic attacks.  I attributed this at the outset to a reaction to my abuse of Tylenol  PM and ambien during and after a trip to Nepal.  But when I went to a sleep center and several doctors and a psychiatrist, they heard "depression" and "panic attacks" and got out their prescription pads. Over the course of the summer, I was prescribed trazodone, remeron, Lunesta, Rozerem, Lexapro, and clonazepam, none of which worked.  Most made it worse.  Finally it was suggested I try a holistic approach, which eventually did work. I remain convinced that overuse of Tylenol PM and ambien was the initial trigger and that piling on the other drugs compounded the problem.

So I have good reason to be cautious about these meds. I've also read warnings that the drug  (Diphenhydramine) in Tylenol PM (and in Benadryl) should not be used on a regular basis by the elderly.

I'm writing this mainly to remind myself that 5-HTP is a much safer and better choice as a sleep aid.

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