Did You Know Medications Can Cause Insomnia?

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 around 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.


Common Medications To Interfere With Sleep

Heart Medications

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

Asthma Medication

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.

Prednisone medication

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.

Depression Medication

Approximately one-fifth of individuals who take a category of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) like sertraline, 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.

Anti-Smoking Medication

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 Medication

ritalin medication

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.

Thyroid Medication

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

Lipitor medication bottle

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 a 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.

Allergy Medication

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 a 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 & 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 the 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.

Americans take many medications and it is time to review what you have in your medicine cabinet and make sure you are getting the benefits you need from them.  By not reading up on all the side-effects a person could be taking pills that may create another health problem unknowingly. Staying up to date on patient warnings and patient medication information is very important.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.