Not Sleeping well? Check Your Medicine Cabinet.

One of your medications may be to blame.

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, the culprit could be one of the medications you take. One common side effect of some medications — including those available over the counter — is poor sleep. From nighttime insomnia to daytime drowsiness, learn how these common medications can affect the quality of your ZZZs.

Medication #1: Beta blockers* such as metoprolol and propranolol
Common brand names: Toprol XL
®, Lopressor® and Inderal®

These medications are often used to treat high blood pressure or chest pain by slowing the heart rate and the heart’s workload.1 However, some people on beta blockers may experience insomnia.

Medication #2: Corticosteroids such as cortisone and prednisone

Corticosteroids are used to help treat inflammation and open the airways, such as in the case of asthma.2 Some people taking these medications may feel jittery or unable to relax enough to fall asleep — and stay asleep. Others report having bad dreams.

Medication #3: Sympathomimetic stimulants
Common brand names: Ritalin®, Adderall® and Concerta®

These medications are often used to help treat attention deficit disorder (ADD). They work by helping to increase a person’s ability to focus. However, they may also make it harder for a person to fall asleep.3

Medication #4: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Common brand names: Paxil, Prozac® and Zoloft®

SSRIs are used to help treat people with depression and/or anxiety. However, one common side effect is sleepiness.4

Medication #5: Nicotine-replacement products
Common brand names: Nicorette
® and NicoDerm® CQ®

These medications help people quit smoking by sending a low dose of nicotine into the body.5 Products typically include patches, gum or lozenges. Due to getting a constant stream of nicotine, some people may have trouble falling asleep or have nightmares.

You don’t need a prescription to suffer from poor sleep.

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications can also cause sleep issues. These include:

Sedating antihistamines** such as Benadryl® and Chlor-Trimeton®
These medications are designed to help reduce allergy symptoms such as sneezing, hives or a runny nose.6 However, due to their sedative effect, they may also cause people to feel extremely tired during the day.

Cough, cold and flu medications that contain alcohol
Common brand names: NyQuil
and Robitussin®

These medicines are designed to help relieve a person’s cough, stuffy nose and body aches.7 But the alcohol can serve as a sedative, which means some people may experience drowsiness.

Headache or pain medications with caffeine
Common brand names: Excedrin
® and Anacin®

Some headache and pain medications designed to reduce pain have caffeine as an ingredient. However, because caffeine is a stimulant, it can make some people feel more awake for up to six hours.8 Depending on when they take these medications, some people may have trouble falling asleep at bedtime.

What can you do to sleep better?

If you have any sleep troubles and are taking one of the medications listed above, talk with your doctor. They may have you take your medication at a different time of the day. Or, they may recommend lowering your dosage or switching to a different medication.

*Some beta blockers do not affect sleep; these include atenolol (Tenormin®) and sotalol (Betapace®).

**These medications are also found in OTC sleep aids.

By Shauna Block, Contributing Writer


1American Heart Association. Types of Blood Pressure Medications. Accessed May 14, 2020.
2American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Corticosteroids Definition. Accessed May 14, 2020.
3CHADD. Medication Management. Accessed May 14, 2020.
4National Institute of Mental Health. Mental Health Medications. Accessed May 14, 2020.

Last Updated May 18, 2020

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