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Does Nyquil Make You Sleepy?

Does Nyquil Make You Sleepy?

Sandland Editorial Team
· 3 min read

People with sleeping problems know how irritating it can be to get into bed and remain awake for hours. There you are on a Sunday night, tossing and turning, counting sheep, listening to the soothing sound of classical music — wide awake. You know Monday is just hours away, but you can't fall asleep, no matter how hard you try.

As a last resort, you grit your teeth, head to the medicine cabinet, and reach for your chosen poison for the night. But before you commit, it’s important to ask, does Nyquil actually make you sleepy?

What is Nyquil?

NyQuil is an over-the-counter medication that treats nighttime symptoms of the common cold and flu. It helps relieve sneezing, sore throat, headache, minor aches and pains, fever, runny nose, and cough among adults and children aged 12 years and older. 

To many parents, it's the holy grail of cold medications. For people with insomnia, it's more of an accessible sleep aid.

What Ingredients are in Nyquil?

While Nyquil works to relieve common cold and flu symptoms, drowsiness is a common side effect. This means that while Nyquil wasn't specifically formulated as a sleep aid, it has been popularly used as a short term relief for insomnia. Why does this happen?  The answer is in the formulation.

Listed below are some of the sleep-inducing ingredients Nyquil contains.


Nyquil contains acetaminophen which is a pain reliever or fever reducer.  Its main job is to target symptoms such as minor aches and pains, headaches, fever, and sore throat.  Acetaminophen doesn't pose a great risk when taken as recommended doses, but too much intake can lead to liver damage.  It does nothing to help you sleep, but because Nyquil combines it with antihistamine, it can end up making you drowsy.

Doxylamine Succinate

Doxylamine succinate is an antihistamine and an active ingredient in Nyquil. It relieves symptoms of allergy, hay fever, and the common cold. It works by blocking certain natural substances that your body makes to alleviate symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. 

Doxylamine succinate is the compound that causes drowsiness when you take Nyquil.  However, while many opt to use this for insomnia, it is not good to take in the long term as it does not promote sleep as other sleeping pills do.

Dextromethorphan HBr

Dextromethorphan HBr is a cough suppressant that works by reducing brain signals that trigger coughing. Like doxylamine, it also causes drowsiness. As it metabolizes in the body, it becomes dextromethorphan (DXM) which is listed as a dissociative drug by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It has dissociative hallucinogenic properties that distort the perception of sight and sound and produce feelings of detachment.  As such, it is not recommended for long-term use.

nyquil for sleep

Why You Shouldn't Use Nyquil as a Sleep Aid

While Nyquil can be a good short term treatment for insomnia, overuse of this drug is bad for your health. Acetaminophen can only be used in recommended doses. Overdose of this drug can lead to liver problems, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sweating, stomach pain, extreme tiredness, jaundice, and dark urine. 

Some people have reported experiencing disrupted sleep upon taking Nyquil, often involving lucid and strange dreams, increased anxiety, breathing stoppage, and trouble falling back to sleep. This can lead people to consume more of the drug in a shorter period, which increases the risk of overdosing.

Also, while doxylamine does cause drowsiness, research has not concluded that it is safe or effective as a sleep aid. It can also lead to various side effects such as blurred vision, headache, mouth, nose, and throat dryness, nausea, respiratory congestion, and restlessness. 

Dextromethorphan HBr also causes side effects when taken beyond the recommended doses. Lightheadedness, restlessness, and gastrointestinal symptoms may be experienced when this drug is abused.  

Misconceptions exist that over-the-counter drugs like Nyquil are safe to use recreationally and regularly. However, using Nyquil beyond its recommended usage isn't just dangerous for your sleep, it's dangerous for your body. 

Use Nyquil only for what it's intended for: to treat symptoms of the common cold and flu.

What Else Can Help With Getting Good Sleep?

Instead of risking your health with over the counter drugs like Nyquil that can only provide small gains for a short time, you should look to the following instead:

Lifestyle Changes

Sleep problems are often a result of lifestyle choices, and so changing your lifestyle may help you enhance your sleep.  Try sticking to a sleep schedule, relaxing before bed, or cleaning your bedroom. 

Studies have shown that going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help prevent disrupted sleep.  Creating a relaxing routine and keeping your bedroom strictly a place for sleep and sex can also help make you fall asleep easier and faster.

It is also recommended that you avoid naps and using electronic devices before bed.  Staying fit with regular exercise and a healthy diet is also guaranteed to help improve sleep. Working out just before bed can knock you out flat with the added benefit of keeping you in shape.

can nyquil help you sleep


If you're not up for a quick lifestyle turnaround, taking medications targeted for sleep may be the move. Melatonin helps promote sleep as it plays a role in your natural sleep-wake cycle.  Natural levels of this hormone are typically highest at night, signaling your brain that it's time to sleep. Research suggests that melatonin supplements might help treat sleep disorders, such as delayed sleep phase, and relieves insomnia as well as jet lag. 

That said, there are drawbacks to consider. Over-the-counter products containing melatonin often contain too much of the c hemical for users to process in a single night. Instead of reaping its intended benefits, you may wake up fighting its effects instead. When purchasing sleep aids, it’s important to understand their formula, and their process.


Sandland Sleep understands that many adults have problems falling asleep. Those folks may rely on drugs like Nyquil for relief, but this often has adverse side effects on their health. Sandland Sleep believes in a holistic and natural solution to the problem.

With the guidance of sleep professionals, Sandland Sleep formulated natural, fast-acting supplements that are guaranteed to give you clean and easy sleep without any intoxicating or long-term side effects. Whether you're the kind of person who has problems falling asleep or the kind that finds it difficult to stay asleep through the night, Sandland Sleep has the product for you. 

Derived from top-graded hemp extract and containing melatonin as well as other natural ingredients that promote sleep,Fall Asleep andStay Asleep promise to give you the good night's rest that you deserve.  

does nyquil make you sleepy
How long does NyQuil make you sleep?

The duration of sleep varies from person to person. Some sleep for four to six hours, while others sleep between seven to eight hours. However, taking Nyquil as a sleep aid isn't recommended, as some people have reported experiencing disrupted sleep, often involving lucid and weird dreams, increased anxiety, breathing stoppage, and trouble falling back to sleep.

Can I take NyQuil to sleep if I'm not sick?

You can, but you really shouldn't. Nyquil is only designed to treat short-term symptoms.  It is not intended to cure long-term health problems and insomnia. It should not be used just to fall asleep. Doing so puts your health at risk, and once you start relying on Nyquil to sleep, it can escalate to dependence which preceded addiction.

Is it bad to take NyQuil to sleep one time?

Using Nyquil as a sleep aid once isn't likely to cause any adverse side effects. However, it is not recommended as a treatment for insomnia. You are better off trying melatonin which is specifically intended to help relieve sleep problems.

Can you stay awake after taking NyQuil?

Nyquil has doxylamine succinate, an antihistamine that causes drowsiness. As a result, most people would get the urge to sleep after taking Nyquil.  This is an intended reaction to help you fight off symptoms of cold and flu. If you really plan to fight off the drowsiness, it may be possible. However, this likely defeats the purpose of the drug: to relieve your cold symptoms and help you achieve a good night’s sleep.

Written by Sandland Editorial Team

Our internal editorial team has put together research on key topics including product formulation, efficacy studies, and sleep advice.

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