I recently tried Nytol One-A-Night, which is a popular anti-histamine over the counter sleeping pill.
I also tested Nytol Herbal not long ago, so I’ll be comparing the effectiveness of both in this review.
I took the herbal version for 3 nights, and then had a week without using any sleep aids. Following that, I took one 50 mg tablet of the One-A-Night on 4 consecutive days.
I know from experience that anti-histamine sleeping pills work well for me, so there was more of a chance of a placebo effect. But I’ll try to give as unbiased an account as possible.
The Nytol knockout
Compared to the herbal version, I was expecting to experience a more powerful sedative effect. That is what happened, just not exactly how I imagined.
The instructions say to take it 20 minutes before bed. I did that on the first night and stayed awake reading for around 40 minutes. I was curious to see if I could detect any sedation.
There was still no noticeable effect an hour later, so I switched the light off anyway. I believe I then fell asleep within 5 to 10 minutes, and woke up 9 hours later!
I didn’t wake up once during the night, which is unusual for me, and overslept the alarm by one hour. So it appeared the Nytol had done its job.
Feeling the effects in the morning
In the morning, I felt quite refreshed – both mentally and physically. But I also woke up with a bit of a fuzzy head and could feel light pressure on my forehead, just above my eyes.
Those sensations slowly faded on their own, but took a couple of hours to completely disappear. So although the Nytol seemed to give me a good night’s sleep, it didn’t quite leave me feeling 100% the next morning.
I was still able to go about my day and work, but those symptoms were a little annoying.
The following nights
On the second night, I tried exactly the same routine. Once again there was the same effect of not feeling drowsy, but I still fell asleep quickly. And I again woke up after a totally blanked out night, with the same fuzzy head.
On the third night, I don’t think the sedative effect was quite as strong. The manufacturer advises that you can develop a tolerance to Nytol, but night 3 seemed quite soon to me.
I woke up a couple of times in the night this time, but admittedly still slept pretty well. The next morning symptoms were similar though.
I tried it one more time, and again didn’t have a repeat of the first or second night’s total knockout, but still slept quite well.
By this point, I’d had enough of the groggy feeling, was content with a couple of good night’s sleep, and didn’t take them again.
Would I take Nytol One-A-Night again?
The Nytol clearly worked well for me, and I appreciated sleeping right through the night. But the persistent fuzzy head the next day was an issue.
On balance, I probably would consider taking it again but only as a one-off.
How it compares with the herbal type
The first thing to note is that these pills don’t smell or taste as bad as the valerian-based herbal ones, so that’s a plus.
They are considerably stronger in effect than the herbal pills too. Strangely, I did feel a sedative effect with the others while still awake, which I didn’t with the One-A-Night.
I didn’t feel any effects the next day with the herbal pills though. So they both have their pros and cons.
Please remember that this was just my experience with the two types. It could be completely different for you, and as you’ll see in the comments below, people react differently to them.
From the instruction leaflet, the ingredients are:
- Diphenhydramine hydrochloride 50mg (the anti-histamine which makes you sleepy)
- Anhydrous lactose
- Microcrystalline cellulose
- Maize starch
- Stearic acid
- Silicon dioxide.
Who shouldn’t take it?
If any of the following conditions or situations apply to you, the manufacturer advises against taking it, or consulting a doctor first:
- Children under the age of 16.
- If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients.
- If you have: a stomach or gut obstruction, such as an ulcer.
- Asthma, bronchitis or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
- Narrow-angle glaucoma.
- Enlarged prostate or urinary retention.
- Moderate or severe liver disease.
- Myasthenia gravis, epilepsy or seizure disorders.
- You shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery.
- You shouldn’t drink alcohol.
- Intolerance to lactose or some sugars.
- If you’re taking other medication, talk to a doctor first. Especially anti-depressants, atropine, other anti-histamines or any that cause drowsiness.
- If you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.
- If your sleep problem lasts longer than 2 weeks, or you need a higher dose of Nytol to fall asleep.
Possible side effects
The leaflet describes the following possible side effects, though most are very rare:
- Reduced attention
- Dry mouth
- Allergic reactions (like a rash, shortness of breath or swelling)
- Blurred vision
- Palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Muscle twitching
- Pins and needles
- Nausea or vomiting
- Thicker bronchial mucus
- Difficulty urinating
Remember if you notice any of the above, or any others, stop taking the Nytol and see your doctor or a pharmacist.
Update: trying Nytol Original (25mg)
Nytol Original is very similar to the One-A-Night, except you take 2 x 25 mg pills instead of 1 x 50 mg.
So I was curious to see what would happen if I only took a half dosage, and if the lingering next-day effects would be less of an issue.
I tried just one pill for 3 consecutive nights and did find they were better for me. I still experienced a sedative effect – not as much as the 50 mg dosage, but enough to help me sleep a bit better.
And the headache and fuzzy head weren’t as bad in the morning, though I didn’t feel 100% clear either.
So I think this is one to consider if you’d like to start with a lower dosage, or found the higher one caused you difficulty in the morning.
Update: trying other sleep aids that contain diphenhydramine
Nytol isn’t the only sleep aid that uses diphenhydramine as the active ingredient. I’ve now tried a couple of others and had a very similar experience each time.
So for me personally, I can be fairly sure that the sedative effect and potential side effects will be quite consistent no matter which brand I take.
For more on the active ingredient, with warnings for who should avoid it, have a look at the NHS website page about diphenhydramine.
Medicines.org.uk has an online patient leaflet for Nytol.
As well as discussing using it with your own doctor, you can use the Nytol website contact page to ask the manufacturer questions (not a paid link).
Have you tried Nytol One-A-Night, Nytrol Original or the herbal type?
Please leave a comment below describing your experience with them, and whether they helped you sleep better or not.