9 Medications That Cause Insomnia

Insomnia¹ is a sleep disorder experienced by millions of people globally. A person with this condition has difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. It can result from a range of psychological and physical factors. Usually, the cause of insomnia is a temporary issue like stress.

Have you considered clinical trials for Insomnia?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Insomnia, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Drug-induced insomnia

Sometimes, insomnia can result from certain medications that affect your body's neurotransmitters or receptors to control your sleep. This is known as drug-induced insomnia. Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your mental and physical well-being, so it's vital to carefully read the labels on your prescription medications.

Medicines cause insomnia due to their different interactions with the body's neurotransmitters and receptors responsible for helping us sleep. Sometimes, side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea can also affect sleep quality.

This post will look at nine medications that can cause insomnia.

SSRI antidepressants

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are a type of antidepressant that increases the serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is a chemical that plays a key role in body functions such as sleep, mood, and sense of well-being.

The most commonly prescribed SSRI antidepressants are:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)

  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

  • Citalopram (Celexa)

About half of people² taking antidepressants claim to feel better, but many complain of depression symptoms like difficulty thinking and insomnia.

If you experience this, consider talking to your doctor about switching your SSRI antidepressant intake time to the morning. However, don't make medication changes without consulting with your doctor.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids effectively treat inflammation of the muscles and blood vessels, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus. They also help to reverse allergic reactions. If you are struggling with any of these conditions, you may also be suffering from stress. Too much stress makes the body release the hormone cortisol, which leads to restless nights.

Taking corticosteroids for treatment also causes sleeping difficulties by wreaking havoc on systems that allow you to sleep and relax. You can ask your health provider to recommend the best alternative to corticosteroids, based on your condition.

Stimulants

Stimulants are often prescribed to patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples are:

  • Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)/

  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)

These drugs increase energy, alertness, and attention. This can cause insomnia, especially when taken late in the evening or at too high a dosage.

If you take stimulants to treat ADHD, it's best to consult your doctor on the best dosage. Taking them in the morning could further reduce your chances of sleep issues at night.

Nasal decongestants or oral decongestants

Decongestants like oxymetazoline (Afrin) and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) are taken orally or via a nasal spray to alleviate a stuffy nose. Many people using decongestants often experience insomnia, especially when used during the night.

If the nasal congestion is not too bad at night, you might consider pushing through until morning or taking an alternative that does not cause insomnia, such as azelastine (Astelin, Astepro), an antihistamine nasal spray. Seek approval from your health provider before changing your medication.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are the major prescription medications for arrhythmias and hypertension. Examples are:

  • Carvedilol (Coreg)

  • Atenolol (Tenormin)

  • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol)

They lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate by blocking the effect of adrenaline in the body.  However, they have long been associated with sleep disturbances like nightmares and waking up during the night.

If beta-blockers affect your sleep, you may consider taking an alternative benzothiazepine calcium channel blocker³ for blood pressure. If you have hypertension, it's best to ask your doctor for the best alternative.

ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are a treatment option for people with congestive heart failure or high blood pressure. These drugs can lead to potassium buildup in the body, which is a form of electrolyte imbalance. As a result, you may experience leg cramps, diarrhea, and achy muscles or joints, which disrupt normal sleep. In addition, ACE inhibitors are associated with a persistent cough that can be detrimental to sleep.

Doctors often recommend benzothiazepine calcium channel blockers as an alternative for people experiencing cardiovascular problems.

Statins

Statins are popularly known to lower the risk of heart disease and treat high cholesterol. However, they may affect the nervous system and cause sleeplessness and nightmares — medical experts remain unsure.

If you are experiencing insomnia from taking statins, you may want to try other natural ways to reduce cholesterol, like regular exercise.

Theophylline

Theophylline is popularly used to prevent and treat breath shortness, wheezing, and chest tightness caused by asthma.

Too much of this drug causes theophylline toxicity, leading to persistent insomnia. The symptoms of toxicity include:

  • Vomiting

  • Irritability

  • Headache

  • Increased heart rate

You should regularly go for theophylline-level checkups to avoid toxicity.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

Cholinesterase inhibitors⁴ are used to treat different types of dementia. They work by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for boosting memory, alertness, thought, and judgment. This may interfere with the body's processes and cause sleep issues.

Examples are:

  • Galantamine (Razadyne)

  • Donepezil (Aricept)

  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)

These medicines have other side effects that interfere with sleep quality, like:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

Weigh the benefits of these drugs against their side effects and risks with the help of your health provider.

What to do if your medications are causing insomnia

If you experience insomnia from taking certain medicines, you may consider an alternative with lesser effects or a drug to combat insomnia. Zolpidem is a drug, so speak to your healthcare provider before changing your medication.

Consult your doctor if you experience continuous or persistent insomnia from taking your prescribed medicines. They will advise you on the best alternative medication for your condition or may suggest that you reduce the dosage.

The lowdown

Sleep is important to your health and well-being, so persistent insomnia can lower your overall quality of life

 If you suspect your prescription medications to be the cause of your insomnia, consult your healthcare provider. They may recommend an alternative, reduce your dosage, prescribe another medicine for sleep, or recommend a supplement.

Have you considered clinical trials for Insomnia?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Insomnia, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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