Insomnia (habitual sleeplessness) can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Scientific research shows that problems staying or falling asleep negatively affects an individual’s attention span, memory and overall mental well-being.
Even though insomnia is usually linked with chronic health complications like depression, obesity and diabetes, nearly every person will experience episodes of sleeplessness at various points in life. To illustrate this, reputable scientific research bodies estimate that 25% of Americans suffer sporadic spells of insufficient sleep at any one time.
Whereas daily stress can be a culprit in this, a variety of prescription medicines cause insomnia as a side effect.
Here is a list of some common prescription drugs that can disrupt sleep patterns and cause insomnia.
Anti-arrhythmic medicines used for treating heart rhythm problems can cause sleep difficulties such as insomnia. Beta blockers, normally used for angina, high blood pressure and arrhythmia enhance the chances of having insomnia, nightmares or awakenings during the night
Theophylline, an asthma drug that is at times used to relieve inflammation and assist in clearing airways can cause insomnia and daytime jitters. The active chemicals in this medication are related to caffeine, which is a stimulant. Corticosteroids like prednisone are regularly prescribed to asthma patients and also have similar side effects.
Corticosteroids affect the working of the adrenal glands, which regulate the body response to external threats. They stimulate these glands and this keeps both the body and mind awake, resulting in lack of relaxation and sleep. The eventual outcome is unpleasant dreams and insomnia.
Approximately one fifth of individuals who take a category of antidepressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) like setraline, fluoxetine and paroxetine have sleep problems. These drugs block the re-absorption (or re-uptake) of the serotonin neurotransmitter in the brain which assists brain cells to receive and send messages, thereby easing depression. Insomnia is one of the common side effects of SSRIs.
Nicotine patches used to assist smokers to quit work by releasing tiny amounts of nicotine into the blood throughout. One common side effect of these patches is insomnia. Other people also report having nightmares after using them.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is normally treated with stimulant-like drugs that enhance alertness but can cause insomnia. People who take these medicines may have difficulties falling asleep and when they sleep they fall into the lighter, non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Examples of medicines with such side-effects include dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate.
A thyroid gland which is under-active (referred to as hypothyroidism) can lead to extreme sleepiness during the daytime. This condition is treated with medicines, but these can often result in insomnia. Fortunately this phenomenon only occurs when a person takes high doses.
High Cholesterol Medication
Statins are drugs that are prescribed to help control high levels of cholesterol in individuals. Researchers have discovered that fat-soluble statins like vytorin, zocor, Lipitor and mevacor are likely to cause nightmares and insomnia since they can easily cross the blood-brain barrier.
This is a semi-permeable membrane that acts as buffer by protecting the brain from the various chemicals in the blood-hence helping to maintain constancy of the brain’s internal environment. A common side effect of all statins is muscle pain, which can sometimes be so severe that the person is unable to rest or sleep at night.
Antihistamines, also called H1 antagonists, inhibit the production of histamine, a chemical released when a person is having an allergic reaction. Elevated levels of histamines result in common allergic reactions like runny nose, nasal congestion, itching watery eyes and hives.
Unlike the older antihistamines, second generation antihistamines are non-sedating and do not cause drowsiness. They act by blocking the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, leading to anxiety and insomnia.
Memory Loss And Dementia Medication
Memory loss and mental changes in persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are commonly treated with cholinesterase inhibitors.
These drugs work by inhibiting the action of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter vital for alertness, judgment, thought and memory).This boosts the acetylcholine levels in the brain cells which slows memory loss, which in turn means better performance of a person’s daily activities.
However, preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, which also occurs throughout the body, interferes with other involuntary body processes, including those associated with sleep.