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Substance Induced Sleeping Problems? Drugs as Insomnia Causes?

Abstract: Drugs such as benzodiazepines can have a negative effect on sleep.

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Substance Induced Sleeping Problems? Drugs as Insomnia Causes?

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Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 27 Aug 2008.

What kind of drugs or substances could lead to sleeping problems? What are substance-induced sleeping problems? What drugs cause insomnia ?


Some drugs or substances have a negative influence on the sleeping pattern due to a central stimulant effect on the brain. Some of these substances are medical drugs that have been prescribed by doctors. But sometimes even medical experts are not fully aware of these possible side effects of the medicine.

The most relevant drugs that can cause severe sleeping problems are SLEEPING PILLS. Sedative substances used for short term therapy of insomnia or anxiety disorders (benzodiazepines) are the most common cause of chronic disturbances of normal sleep. These drugs are highly effective in promoting sleep during a limited period, but will cause a disruption of the normal sleep pattern within a couple of weeks. Due to tolerance effects the patients usually will need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. This can cause addiction and disturbed sleep.

Alcohol can also cause chronic sleep problems. Alcohol is very popular as a recreational "sleeping medicine". Again: It may work initially. The calming effect of alcohol seems to promote sleep in some people. But this is only the first part of the pharmacological effect of alcohol. Later in the night, alcohol stimulates the brain. While younger people might not be severely affected due to a greater number of deep sleep phases, older patients may wake up due to this effect in the middle of the night. A chronic misuse of alcohol is one of the major causes of chronic sleeping problems.

Other possible drugs with a negative influence on your sleep:

  • Anti-hypertensive drugs
  • Asthma medication (theophylline, beta-sympathomimetics)
  • thyroid hormones or other hormones (thryroxin, steroid medication)
  • diuretics
  • caffeine and other stimulants
  • some antibiotics

You should ask your doctor about possible side effects or interactions of prescribed drugs. But never stop taking your medicine without proper consultation!

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