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Is ibuprofen p.m. safe for treating insomnia?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Ibuprofen p.m. is a combination medication that contains ibuprofen and diphenhydramine, which is the active ingredient in Benadryl, an antihistamine taken for allergies.

Diphenhydramine is sedating, so ibuprofen p.m. is probably helping you get to sleep. I think it's okay for most people to use diphenhydramine to help them fall asleep, but only very occasionally. Small, infrequent doses are not likely to cause any harm, although diphenhydramine is not without its problems. The sedating effect may last, so you may be drowsy the next day, even if you did sleep well. And the list of possible side effects from diphenhydramine (blurred vision, constipation, dry mouth) would give anyone pause. Most of the side effects are more common and pronounced in older people, so I think if you're older, the risk would likely outweigh the benefit. If sleep alone is the problem, I'd recommend taking just diphenhydramine, at a low dose of 25 to 50 milligrams, and not taking the combination product because ibuprofen has its own side effects.

If you find you need to take diphenhydramine often, you may be experiencing insomnia, which is defined as complaints of disturbed sleep in the presence of adequate opportunity and circumstance to get it. Patients who have insomnia for 30 days or more are considered to have chronic insomnia, and experts recommend against treating chronic insomnia with diphenhydramine.

So, if you find yourself reaching for ibuprofen p.m. on a regular basis, I'd suggest that you talk with your doctor about your sleep and what can be done to improve it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.