Medication or other drug use and sleep problems

Many prescription and nonprescription medications can cause sleep problems. The severity of sleep problems caused by a medication will vary from person to person.

Prescription medications

Some of the prescription medications that may cause a sleep problem include:

  • Blood pressure medications, such as clonidine, propranolol, atenolol, and methyldopa.
  • Diet pills, such as Adipex and phentermine.
  • Hormones, such as birth control pills, thyroid, cortisone, and progesterone.
  • Long-term use of sedative medications, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or chloral hydrate.
  • Medications used to treat asthma, such as theophylline, albuterol, and salmeterol.
  • Medications used to treat irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), such as quinidine.
  • Medications used to treat seizure disorders, such as phenytoin.
  • Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease, such as levodopa.
  • SSRI antidepressants, such as fluoxetine and paroxetine.
  • Steroids, such as prednisone.
  • Stimulants, such as methylphenidate and amphetamines.

Nonprescription medications

Some of the nonprescription medications that may cause a sleep problem include:

  • Medications that contain caffeine, such as Anacin, Excedrin, Empirin, No-Doz, cough medicines, and cold medications.
  • Cold medications, especially those containing phenylephrine, such as Sudafed PE.

Other substances

Other substances that may cause sleep problems include:

  • Alcohol. Initially, drinking alcohol may cause sleepiness. Many people may drink alcohol to help them go to sleep. However, when you drink alcohol, you are more likely to awaken later in the night.
  • Caffeine. Drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeine-containing beverage during the day can cause sleeplessness. Caffeine can stimulate the body for 3 to 7 hours and can interfere with your sleep as long as it remains in your body. Even the small amount of caffeine in decaffeinated beverages can interfere with sleep.
  • Nicotine, which can disrupt sleep and reduce total sleep time. Smokers report more daytime sleepiness and minor accidents than do nonsmokers, especially in younger age groups.
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.

If you think that your sleep problem may be caused by a medication:

  • Call the health professional who prescribed the medication, to determine whether you should stop taking it or take a different one.
  • If you are taking a nonprescription medication, stop taking it. Call your health professional if you feel you need to continue taking the medication.

Last Updated: December 8, 2008

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