Vicks NyQuil™ for Sleep: Does It Work?

Does Vicks NyQuil for sleep actually work? What is it in NyQuil that makes you sleepy, anyway? You've come to the right place to find out.
Man and his dog comfortably sleeping in after the man tries Vicks NyQuil for Sleep
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    Getting quality rest is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When we get sick, it’s especially important to get quality sleep. Unfortunately, coming down with a cold or flu makes it that much harder to get some shut-eye. From fevers to coughs, catching a bug can make sleep seem impossible. Vicks thinks it may be able to help, though, with its NyQuil™ cold and flu medicine. However, does Vicks NyQuil for sleep actually work? You’ve come to the right place to find out.

    What does Vicks NyQuil do?

    Vicks Nyquil is designed to alleviate symptoms of the cold and flu that make it harder to sleep, like cough or fever. Those who are 12 and older may take this medication every 6 hours. People interested in learning more about how to take this medication can visit the official Vicks.com site.

    What is in NyQuil?

    So, what’s in this medication that makes it so effective? Specifically, what is it in Vicks NyQuil that makes you sleepy? According to the official website, the three active ingredients in NyQuil are doxylamine succinate, acetaminophen, and dextromethorphan.

    Let’s break these ingredients down.

    Doxylamine Succinate

    Doxylamine antihistamine drug molecule. Also used as over-the-counter (OTC) sedative. Skeletal formula. Found in Nyquil.

    Doxylamine is an antihistamine, or a drug that blocks the body’s release of histamine, which plays a role in immune responses. Commonly, people use antihistamines to help with symptoms of allergies, colds, or flus.[1] Now, antihistamines are commonly used for short-term treatment of insomnia. In fact, doxylamine is a popular antihistamine that people use for this exact purpose.[2]

    It’s important to note, though, that antihistamines should be just that: short-term treatments. Entities like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, for example, do not recommend the use of antihistamines for long-term treatment of conditions like insomnia. Currently, there isn’t enough known about their safety and effectiveness for this purpose.[3]

    Acetaminophen (Paracetamol)

    Paracetamol (acetaminophen) analgesic drug molecule. Used to reduce fever and relieve pain. Skeletal formula. Found in Nyquil.

    Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol or Tylenol, is a common painkiller and fever reducer.[4] While acetaminophen itself isn’t known for its use as a sleep aid, it is often used as an ingredient in many over-the-counter sleep aids.

    Dextromethorphan

    Dextromethorphan cough suppressant drug (antitussive) molecule. Skeletal formula. Found in Nyquil.

    Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant. Importantly, dextromethorphan does not cure a cough or speed up recovery. Rather, this medication simply helps alleviate coughing.[5] Besides alleviating coughs, dextromethorphan is also known to cause drowsiness.[6]

    What are the side effects of Vicks NyQuil?

    A side effect of this medication is, of course, drowsiness. That means it’s especially important to avoid operating heavy machinery, like cars, and drinking while taking NyQuil. Specific side effects of both doxylamine succinate and dextromethorphan include dizziness and upset stomach.

    Final Thoughts

    Top view of a woman resting on her bed at nighttime.

    So, does NyQuil for sleep work? Science (and satisfied customers) say yes. It’s important to note, though, that NyQuil is only a temporary treatment, not a long-term one. Furthermore, it won’t necessarily cure colds or flus—just make it easier to sleep with said bugs.

    Terms

    • Active ingredient: The ingredient inside a supplement that causes change in the human body.
    • Antihistamine: Drug class that blocks the release of histamine. May help with allergies, cold or flu symptoms, and other conditions.
    • Histamine: A compound that plays a role in the body’s immune response.

    References

    [4]National Center for Biotechnology Information. (n.d.). Acetaminophen. PubChem database. Retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Acetaminophen 

    [6]National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2008). Dextromethorphan. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20080801054711/http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/PEOPLE/injury/research/job185drugs/dextromethorphan.htm

    [2]Ringdahl, E.N., Pereira, S.L., & Delzell, J.E. (2004). Treatment of primary insomnia. The journal of the American board of family practice, 17(3): 212-219. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.17.3.212

    [3]Schutte-Rodin, S., Broch, L., Buysse, D., Dorsey, C., Sateia, M. (2008). Clinical guideline for the evaluation and management of chronic insomnia in adults. Journal of clinical sleep medicine, 4(5): 487-504.

    [5]U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Dextromethorphan. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682492.html

    [1]WebMD. (n.d.). Doxylamine succinate tablet. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-14124/doxylamine-succinate-oral/details 

    Disclaimers

    This article is not to replace the advice of a licensed professional. Allergic reactions, drug interactions, and other reactions when taking Vicks NyQuil for sleep may occur. Always talk to a doctor before trying new medications.

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