Complete Guide To Prescription & Over-the-counter Medicines That Disrupt Sleep

Complete Guide To Prescription & Over-The-Counter Medicines That Disrupt Sleep

December 13, 2022
Healthy Sleep

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Everyone deals with insomnia now and then. There are numerous causes such as stress or that late cup of coffee. But if you have noticed a change in your sleep patterns following a visit to the doctor, your new medication may be the cause of your inability to sleep and daytime drowsiness. Let’s talk about some medicines that disrupt sleep.

Prescription Medicines That Can Disrupt Sleep Include Those For

  • Heart
  • Blood pressure
  • Asthma

Even Over-The-Counter Medicines Can Alter Sleep, Including Medicines For

  • Colds
  • Allergies
  • Headaches

Medications can cause numerous side effects, and even common medicines can prevent you from falling asleep or staying asleep or make you feel fuzzy or sleepy during the day. The ingredients in each type of medicine work differently on different people, so while your friend may sleep soundly on a particular allergy med, you may discover that you are wide-eyed all night long on the same brand. However, the following list of drugs that disrupt sleep typically is universal, applying to the majority of people.

A girl who took medicine that might disrupt her sleep.

Prescription Drugs That Disrupt Sleep

These medications require a prescription and can affect the quality and quantity of restful sleep the user experiences.

Heart Medications

Drugs to treat problems with the rhythm of the heart, known as anti-arrhythmic drugs, can cause insomnia and other sleep disturbances. The beta blockers in heart medications are known to increase the chance of insomnia as well as waking in the middle of the night and having nightmares. Beta-blockers are also common in prescriptions for high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and angina.

Drugs used to lower cholesterol also have been seen to cause sleep issues. Individuals on statins, such as Zocor, have reported nightmares and insomnia.

Asthma Medications

Some asthma medicines utilize the chemical Theophylline, which eases inflammation and helps clear airways. Since Theophylline is chemically related to caffeine, it can result in similar sleep issues as caffeine, such as sleep deprivation and daytime jitters.

Corticosteroids like prednisone are often prescribed for asthma and similar sleep-related side effects have been reported.

Depression Medications

Approximately 20 percent of individuals in the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may experience sleep issues. Insomnia is a common side effect of such medications, which may include:

  • Prozac (with the generic name of fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (known as sertraline)
  • Paxil (also called paroxetine)

Anti-smoking Medications

Nicotine patches, along with other types of anti-smoking aids that deliver small doses of nicotine into the bloodstream, may cause insomnia. Some users also noted that they experienced an increase in nightmares and vivid dreams.

ADHD Medications

Medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD), including Ritalin and Dexedrine, may lead to trouble falling asleep and insomnia. Since these drugs are similar to stimulants in that they boost alertness, patients may have difficulty settling down at the end of the day. However, once an individual on ADHD medication does fall asleep, he or she may experience more time in non-REM sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is a deeper level of sleep that allows for a more restful feeling upon waking.

Thyroid Medications

Individuals with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, may notice insomnia problems once they begin taking prescription medicines. As the condition itself causes sleepiness, the medication often makes sleep difficult. However, this issue tends only to be reported on higher doses of medications.

Female client standing near the pharmacy counter.

Over-The-Counter Medications That Disrupt Sleep

Many people don’t realize that common non-prescription medication can also cause sleep issues, such as insomnia, daytime grogginess, or nightmares.

Cold And Allergy Medications

Antihistamines are used to treat colds and allergies in many over-the-counter drugs. Unfortunately, it also tends to cause drowsiness for six to eight hours after taking the dose. Meanwhile, decongestants have the opposite result, with users reporting insomnia. Additionally, cough medicines, which may contain alcohol, prevent REM sleep and may mean that your cough is gone, but you awaken numerous times in the night.

Pain-Relief Medications

Painkillers – such as Excedrin, Anacin, and Motrin Complete – contain caffeine. While they are effective at driving away headache pain, they may also destroy any chance at sleep. Side effects of pain relievers have been known to last six to eight hours following a dose. Many over-the-counter pain medications do not contain caffeine; however, most migraine formulas will utilize it as a method of easing the pain associated with migraines.

Herbal Medications

Just because a medication is labeled as “natural,” does not mean it will not have side effects, such as insomnia. Some notable herbal supplements that have been known to disrupt sleep include:

How To Avoid Sleep Problems Associated With Medication

As with any issues with your health or medication, speak openly with your doctor or healthcare practitioner. He or she may be able to suggest a similar medication that does not disrupt sleep. You may also be able to try a lower dosage under your doctor’s care and supervision which can also help with your sleep issues.

Sometimes a solution is as simple as changing the time of day that you take your medication. If you notice a new medicine is causing insomnia, try taking that medication upon waking. By the time bedtime rolls around, the side effects may have all dissipated, leaving you with a full night of peaceful, restful sleep.

We hope this information about these medicines that disrupt sleep is able to help you get a better night’s sleep.

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