How Medications May Affect Sleep
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
The secret to a better night’s rest could be changing or reducing the dosage of your medication. Doctors prescribe medications with the best intentions, but many common medications can interfere with sleep as a side effect. Certain over-the-counter ones can, too.
For example, some medications, including those for high blood pressure and asthma, can keep you up all night with insomnia, while others, like cough, cold, and flu medications, can disrupt sleep. And certain medications, such as antihistamines, can cause daytime drowsiness. In fact, sleepiness is one of the most common side effects of medications.
Medications that can affect sleep include:
- Anti-arrhythmics (for heart rhythm problems)
- Beta blockers (for high blood pressure)
- Clonidine (for high blood pressure)
- Corticosteroids (for inflammation or asthma)
- Diuretics (for high blood pressure)
- Cough, cold, and flu medications that contain alcohol
- Headache and pain medications that contain caffeine
- Nicotine replacement products
- Sedating antihistamines (for colds and allergies)
- SSRIs (for depression or anxiety)
- Sympathomimetic stimulants (for attention deficit disorder)
- Theophylline (for asthma)
- Thyroid hormone (for hypothyroidism)
If you suspect that a medication is disrupting your sleep or causing you to feel drowsy during the day, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to switch you to a different one that has a different side effect profile, reduce the dosage of your current prescription, or suggest a different type of treatment altogether so that your sleep isn’t affected. For example, if you’re taking a medication to lower your blood pressure and it’s negatively affecting your sleep somehow, you might consider asking your doctor whether you can drop the medication and replace it with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising regularly, eating more nutritious foods, reducing your intake of sodium, alcohol, and caffeine, quitting smoking, and/or lowering your stress.
What you shouldn’t do is attempt to solve the problem on your own. Always discuss the situation in depth with your doctor first, and don’t stop taking the medication until you have decided on an alternative treatment. Otherwise, you may experience dangerous side effects (such as uncontrolled asthma, ADD, depression, or anxiety). A physician’s guidance can help you evaluate the risks and benefits of a medication.