Drugs

5 Types of Medication Known To Cause Insomnia and Nightmares: Are Prescription Drugs Ruining Your Sleep Pattern?

insomnia
Is your medication keeping your up at night? quinn.anya / Flickr

Insomnia can influence every aspect of your life. Studies show that difficulties falling or staying asleep may come to the detriment of memory, attention span, and mental well-being.

Although the condition is generally associated with chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and depression, almost everyone will experience spells of sleeplessness at some point in their life. Today, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one-quarter of the U.S. population suffer sporadically from inadequate sleep. Without a clear medical cause, it’s easy to chalk it up to everyday stress — however, the culprit could be hiding in your medicine cabinet.

Chronic conditions aside, insomnia is also a side effect of a variety of medication. The following list from the AARP contains some of the most commonly prescribed drugs known to disturb sleep patterns. 

1. Alpha-Blockers

Examples: alfuzosin (Uroxatral), doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress), silodosin (Rapaflo), terazosin (Hytrin) and tamsulosin (Flomax).

These drugs treat high blood pressure, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and Raynaud’s disease by regulating the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline). This relaxes muscles and improves blood as well as urine flow. However, alpha-blockers have also been associated with decreased REM sleep — a crucial part of the sleep cycle.

2. Corticosteroids

Examples: cortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisone (sold under many brand names, such as Deltasone and Sterapred) and triamcinolone.

Corticosteroids are prescribed to treat inflammations, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, allergic reactions, and gout. But their mechanism of action may also influence the body’s adrenal glands, which in turn problematizes relaxation and sleep.

3. Cholinesterase inhibitors

Examples: donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon).

People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often take Cholinesterase inhibitors to treat mental fluctuations and memory impairment. By regulating the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, these drugs improve memory function, attention, and judgment. Unfortunately, heightened alertness may restrict the body’s capacity to induce involuntary functions like sleep, and can also cause abnormal dreams.

4. Glucosamine and chondroitin

These are dietary supplements used to improve joint function by treating pain and inflammations. Although both are naturally occurring within the human body, studies have linked excessive levels to gastrointestinal side effects as well as insomnia.

5. Statins

Examples: atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor).

Many rely on statins to combat high cholesterol levels. However, the associated muscle pain can interfere with sleep patterns and dreams by restricting the body’s ability to rest. Fat-soluble statins like Liptor, Mevacor, Vytorin (a combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe), and Zocor may be particularly problematic, as they penetrate cell membranes and blood barriers much faster than other statins.  

Talk to your health care provider if you believe one of these prescription drugs is behind your insomnia or nightmares. Alternative therapy, other types of medications, or an adjusted dose may be the solution to your sleep disorder. 

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