Can You Cut Tylenol PM In Half?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not it is safe to cut Tylenol PM in half.

Question

Can you cut a Tylenol PM (or generic acetaminophen/diphenhydramine) caplet in half?

Asked by Frostie On May 31, 2021

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published May 31, 2021
Last updated Mar 03, 2022

Key points

  • Tylenol PM is an immediate release combination product containing an antihistamine, diphenhydramine with plain Tylenol or acetaminophen. It is probably safe to cut in half.
  • In general, unless it’s an extended release, delayed release, or specially coated medication, it’s usually safe to cut in half.
  • If you are using diphenhydramine to help fall asleep, it might be time to reevaluate your “sleep hygiene” or medications.

Hi Frostie and thanks for reaching out to us. I appreciate you asking.

It is, in most cases, safe to cut your Tylenol PM in half but there are drawbacks to doing so (and whether or not you should depends on the specific formulation in question).

Some formulations of Tylenol PM may have a capsule-like coating that allows the tablet to be swallowed easier. If this is broken, it might be more difficult to swallow, but it is still fine to cut in half and the medication will work the same way (again, it just may not be as easy to swallow).

However, Tylenol PM is also available as a liquid gel-filled capsule and then these should not be cut. Not only would they be messy, but you wouldn’t really be able to measure out half of a dose with any accuracy.

In general, as long as the tablet  doesn’t say extended release, delayed release, or specifically not to cut them, it’s usually safe to cut these medications in half. However, exceptions do exist, so please continue to double check for each individual medication.

Regarding Tylenol PM, it might not be the best option for you to help with sleep long term.

Tylenol PM it is a combination drug containing acetaminophen and diphenhydramine. It is recommended to take for occasional trouble sleeping and if you have minor aches or pains. If you are only having trouble sleeping on occasion, then plain diphenhydramine (the ingredient in Tylenol PM that causes drowsiness) may be a more appropriate option.

If you are using diphenhydramine regularly to help you fall asleep, it’s not an effective long term strategy. It hasn’t been shown to help with sleep quality beyond a few nights.

Also, recently, long term use has been linked to developing dementia later in life. If you find that your sleep quality isn’t the best, it might be a good time to reevaluate your sleep hygiene. There’s a lot involved in sleep hygiene, and I will link you to a good resource if you’d like to read up on it more.

From personal experience, I know that making sure that I don’t use my phone or watch any TV for an hour or so before bedtime helps. Bright lights like phones and your TV cause your brain to think that it’s daytime, so you tend to have a more difficult time falling asleep. Instead, I try to read a bit to decompress before I fall asleep. There’s always something that can be done to improve your sleep hygiene. I would encourage you to read up on a bit and give it a try.

Lastly, if you’ve made sleep hygiene adjustments, and still are struggling to fall asleep, I would reach out to your physician about trying an alternative sleep medication.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any additional questions!

References

  • Diphenhydramine Prescribing Information, FDA
  • Do not crush list 2020, ISMP
  • Tylenol PM Product Information Page, Tylenol
  • Over-the-Counter Agents for the Treatment of Occasional Disturbed Sleep or Transient Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Efficacy and Safety, The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication related questions!

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