If you’ve had a cold that’s keeping you from having restful sleep, chances are you’ve reached for the soothing relief of Vicks® NyQuil™.
This cold treatment has a long history of helping cold sufferers get much-needed sleep. First released in the U.S. in 1966, NyQuil™ has been providing relief for cold symptoms ever since.
In fact, Vicks® NyQuil™ was the number one-selling brand-name cold medicine in the United States in 2015, beating out all of the other popular names in cold relief.
Part of NyQuil’s™ success is the combination of symptom relief plus sleep enhancement, but the other part is the fact that the company had diversified its product line to appeal to a wide variety of consumer needs.
Let’s take a look at the entire NyQuil™ product line of adult medicine.
The NyQuil™ Liquid family is the most easily recognizable of all NyQuil™ products.
This line has been around the longest and has the most consumer loyalty, although the portability of the pill form — LiquiCaps — is proving to be popular as well.
In the flagship product, NyQuil’s™ Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid, the three active ingredients are:
Acetaminophen helps reduce fevers and relieve the aching, painful joints and muscles that sometimes accompany colds and flu.
To control the urge to cough that often disturbs the sleep of cold and flu sufferers, dextromethorphan (DMX) is added. This effective cough suppressant targets that part of your brain associated with coughing urge to reduce cough frequency so you can rest.
Finally, doxylamine succinate is a common antihistamine that can help relieve runny nose and symptoms like itchy eyes and throat, as well as sneezing.
You should be aware that the main inactive ingredient in these formulas is alcohol, which also contributes to drowsiness.
Other Nyquil™ Liquid Formulas
- Temporarily relieves common cold and flu symptoms including cough due to minor throat and bronchial irritation, sore...
- Nyquil liquid is available in three flavors original, cherry and vanilla cherry swirl
- When using Dayquil or Nyquil products, carefully read each label to insure correct dosing use as directed keep out of...
The Severe Cold & Flu Relief Liquid has the same ingredients as the regular formula, with the addition of phenylephrine HCl 10 mg, which is a nasal decongestant for stubborn stuffiness.
For people with high blood pressure, Nyquil HBP is decongestant-free to protect against blood pressure spikes common with decongestant medications.
If you have concerns about consuming alcohol — either for yourself, a child, or a loved one — choose Alcohol-Free Nyquil™ Cold &Flu Relief Liquid for the same symptom relief without the alcohol.
NyQuil™ Cough Suppressant is for people who need the symptom relief without acetaminophen — either because of a reaction to acetaminophen, a preference for a different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, or because there is no pain associated with their cold.
Nyquil™ LiquiCaps for Portability and Convenience
- POWERFUL NIGHTTIME RELEIEF. NyQuil Cold & Flu Liquicaps temporarily relieves common cold and flu symptoms, including...
- RELIEVES YOUR COLD SYMPTOMS SO YOU CAN SLEEP BETTER. NyQuil helps to relieve your cold & flu symptoms, so you can get...
- #1 PHARMACIST RECOMMENDED over-the-counter cold & cough medicine from Vicks, the world's #1 selling cough & cold brand
For those who have trouble with the taste of the liquid product or just want the convenience of an easily portable medication, Vicks® offers NyQuil Liqui-caps in both Cold & Flu Relief and Severe Cold & Flu Relief formulas.
Capsules are packed in 2-pill blister packs, with each liquid-filled capsule providing half of the standard dosage.
This makes it easy to dial down the dosage when you only need a little help managing your cold or flu.
Plus, you can tuck them into your purse, backpack, or suitcase if you’re traveling. There’s no problem taking this form of the medication through airport security.
Dosages and Usage
Standard dosages for any of the liquid formulas are as follows:
Dosages for the LiquiCaps formulas are as follows:
You should never take more than four doses of any formula in one 24-hour period.
What Makes NyQuil™ Unique
The precise combination of a powerful anti-histamine like doxylamine succinate with a cough suppressant and alcohol is what gives this drug its unique soporific qualities.
Unfortunately, there is a darker side to some of those ingredients. Doxylamine is known to be a hypnotic sedative, with some tolerance developing over time.
Dextromethorphan, the cough suppressant in NyQuil™, interacts poorly with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors like Emsam, Nardil, and Parnate.
If you’re taking any of the MAO drugs for depression or for any other reason, NyQuil™ can cause a fatal drug interaction.
What’s the Price of a Good Night’s Sleep?
There’s no doubt that this product works when you’re not sleeping well due to cold, flu, or other minor bronchial symptoms.
Fortunately, relief is relatively inexpensive.
NyQuil™ Liquid formulas range from $7.49 - $10.49 at retailers around the country, with the HBP and Alcohol-Free formulas starting off at higher price points — $8.99 and $8.49, respectively.
Expect to pay between $6.99 - $11.99 for the Severe Formula caplets and $7.49 - $10.49 for the regular Cold & Flu formula.
How NyQuil™ Compares With The Competition
If you’re looking for that elusive sleep + cold relief elixir, you do have a few options. The most popular NyQuil™ competitors are:
- TheraFlu® Nighttime Severe Cold and Cough
- Tylenol® Cold Multi-Symptom Nighttime
In truth, there’s not that much difference among these choices, but there is one thing that stands out.
Both the Thera-Flu® and Tylenol® formulas have a similar mix of drugs as NyQuil™, with one significant difference — the addition of phenylephrine as a decongestant.
- PROS: Phenylephrine doesn’t have as much of an impact on blood pressure.
- CONS: The phenylephrine can counteract the drowsiness effects of the doxylamine so you don’t get the restful sleep you’re searching for.
NyQuil™ — Issues and Reviews
NyQuil™ has been around for more than half a century. In that time, it’s been the center of a lot of public discussion over the years, and not just on whether or not it is effective for cold and flu relief.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues surrounding NyQuil™.
NyQuil™ — A Gateway Drug?
Prior to 2006, NyQuil™ was formulated with pseudoephedrine, which is a major component of the street drug crystal meth.
Following the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2006, all over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine had to be reformulated or be controlled and kept behind the pharmacy counter.
NyQuil™ chose to reformulate to keep its over-the-counter status, substituting doxylamine for pseudoephedrine.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still real dangers to recurrent use of NyQuil™.
Dextromethorphan (DMX), the cough suppressant in the formula, is a known addictive substance in large quantities. Technically, it is an analog of the Schedule II opioid levorphanol, which is a derivative of codeine.
In high doses, DMX can cause psychedelic, euphoric, and dissociative experiences, making it a target of teen users.
Signs of DMX abuse can include:
In long-term abusers, it can cause brain damage and even death.
Another addictive side of NyQuil™ shot to light when Glee actress Jane Lynch admitted to her NyQuil addiction in the press.
Rather than DMX, it was the alcohol in the formula that was causing her to self-medicate for her depression.
In alcoholics who use NyQuil™, the combination can be devastating, causing extreme damage to the liver. Alcohol can also magnify the effects of DMX and cause extreme sedation while taking NyQuil™.
The use of NyQuil™ is contraindicated in recovering alcoholics due to the potential for relapse.
But What About Those Who Use It Right?
If used correctly, there’s no doubt that NyQuil’s™ formula helps people fall asleep faster and more restfully when they’re suffering from the effects of colds and flu.
NyQuil™ formulas get consistently high ratings on Amazon, Walgreens, and other online retailers.
Various blogs and anecdotal sites consistently praise the brand for helping people sick with colds get a good night’s rest.
But are there natural, less risky, remedies available?
Let’s find out.
Natural Alternatives To NyQuil™
There are natural alternatives to over-the-counter medications. But do they work?
Effective Natural Cough Suppressant
A study by Penn State University showed that a single dose of honey, administered two nights in a row, beat dextromethorphan for controlling coughs in children.
Besides relieving nocturnal coughs, honey tastes great and has no side effects. In fact, micronutrients in honey may even contribute to wellness.
Honey is also antibacterial and can help heal throat infections rather than just managing symptoms. It’s appropriate for children one year and older and all adults unless you’re managing your blood sugar.
As always, talk with a physician before trying any remedy.
For stuffy noses, saline irrigation with a Neti pot was found to effectively relieve congestion from sinus and other nasal conditions. Using a Neti pot can also help clean nasal passages of bacteria, helping to resolve illness sooner.
Always be sure to clean your Neti pot after each use to avoid contaminating your sinuses with bacteria.
So, we’ve addressed coughs and congestions, but what about sleep?
The two most popular natural sleep aids, melatonin and valerian, have been shown to be relatively ineffective in dealing with occasional insomnia, like that caused by illness. They are more effective over weeks of use than in single doses.
You could try the usual things that help with sleep — lavender oil, light-dampening shades, a hot bath, and meditation.
But the same issues apply to these practices as with taking melatonin and valerian — they are better over time rather than for acute insomnia.
Let’s face it — sometimes there’s nothing that comes close to the kind of sleep you can get with NyQuil™.
That being said, it’s very possible that if you can manage your symptoms with natural substitutes, you won’t need extra help to fall asleep.
A Solution for Those Who Hate Taking Medication But Need Extra Help
If you’re worried about the effects of taking a cocktail of over-the-counter meds for a simple cold, consider only taking what you need.
If you’re only having trouble sleeping, there’s no need to take acetaminophen and dextromethorphan. Buy an over-the-counter decongestant only, like Benadryl® to take before bed.
If you only suffer from aches, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. And if coughs are your bugbear, then take a cough-suppressant-only formula.
NyQuil™ — What You Need For A Good Night’s Rest?
There is no doubt that for many, NyQuil™ is exactly what’s needed when they’re in the throes of a stuffy head, horrible sneezing, coughing, aching, cold, or flu.
Thousands of positive ratings can’t be wrong about the effectiveness of this medicine to provide sufferers with a much-needed good night’s sleep through a combination of symptom relief and sleep-enhancing medication.
If used correctly, NyQuil™ will help you manage your symptoms and sleep soundly.
With a variety of formulas that cater to people with high blood pressure, those sensitive to the effects of alcohol and those only requiring cough suppression can choose one that fits their needs.
Even those that hate taking more medication than needed will find NyQuil’s™ Cough Suppressant-only formula handy when they need that extra help to feel better.
In addition, NyQuil™ makes the LiquiCaps product for people who love the convenience of capsules, and for those that can’t swallow pills well, there are the original liquid formulas.
The liquid, while not as convenient or portable, works just as well.
And portability might not be an issue — NyQuil™ is readily available at drug and grocery stores, gas stations, and even airports, so you’re never very far from relief.
The key to having a positive experience with this drug is to use it according to directions. Read the label carefully and never, ever take more than the recommended dosage.
If you have no health contraindications, then taking NyQuil™ for a night or two when you are fighting a cold is a safe, effective way to fight symptoms and give you the rest you need.