Missing out on sleep can dampen your mood and make you less focused and more prone to overeating. It can increase your risk of both depression and cancer and leave your body more vulnerable to infections. Still, some of the drugs you are prescribed can make it harder to get the all-important shut-eye you need. Below are the four types of drugs that can cause insomnia as a side effect as well as tips to help you get to sleep.
A 2019 meta-analysis suggested that while opioids may reduce activity and restlessness while sleeping, they can also interrupt breathing and limit rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is crucial to learning, memory and mood.
Pain can make it nearly impossible to get to sleep. Unfortunately, so can pain medications. Midori Matsuo, bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBBS) and a pain management doctor, says that insomnia can be one of the most debilitating side effects of opioids for her patients.
Check out MedShadow’s article on non-pharmaceutical ways to help manage pain.
Drugs aimed at lowering your blood pressure, such as beta blockers, may also reduce the quality of your sleep. Fatigue was one of the most common complaints among patients prescribed these treatments, according to a March 2021 analysis.
Sleep disturbances can be a symptom of depression itself, and some patients who are prescribed antidepressants find it easier to drift off, but others experience worsening insomnia. The neurotransmitters that antidepressants act on, serotonin and norepinephrine, are important in sleep. Some antidepressants may make you more likely to fall asleep, while others keep you up. In some cases, taking the dose in the morning instead of at night may help.
Researchers found that when people using steroids like prednisone tweeted about the drug, the single most mentioned side effect was insomnia, which came up in 8.6% of the tweets. In 2019, Shawna de la Rosa wrote for MedShadow about her experience with the drug’s psychiatric side effects, including insomnia.
How to Fight Insomnia
Insomnia plagues up to a third of adults, even those who aren’t prescribed the treatments above.
One small change that might help is adding insomnia-fighting foods to your diet. Try basil, bananas, and walnuts to stimulate slumber by raising melatonin and magnesium levels and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol in your body.
Mindfulness and exercise are effective in helping people drift into sleep, a 2020 study suggested.
To help you practice mindfulness, MedShadow has assembled guided meditations and sleep sounds videos available for free on YouTube that can help you melt into sleep. They range from stories about Christmas Eve at Hogwarts to soothing piano music.
Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to practice mindfulness and help you fall asleep. Ceppie Merry, a physician with a PhD in pharmacology, says, “I use the [4-8-7 technique] daily to reduce my overall stress and then, as required, if I come up against anything very stressful.” To do it, breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven and then breathe out for a count of eight. Repeat four to eight times.