Sleep problems caused by medication?

Taking medication can also affect our sleep patterns and even lead to sleep disorders. Here we explain which medications can make us sleep worse.

 Table of Contents

  1. Health & Sleep Disorders
  2. Medication as a cause of sleep disorders
  3. 5 medications that disrupt sleep
  4. Sleep well despite medication and side effects
  5. Conclusion

1. Medication & Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are widespread and can have a variety of causes. If you don't sleep well, you should not only question your sleeping habits, but also take a look at your own medication list. Especially as they get older, many people can no longer avoid taking important medications regularly. It is not uncommon for side effects such as headaches, stomach pain, heartburn or inner restlessness to occur, which have a negative impact on your ability to sleep at night.

However, some medicines can also be directly responsible for making it harder for us to fall asleep or for waking up at night. Sleep disorders can be one of the side effects, especially with medications that affect the central nervous system or hormone metabolism.

2. Medication as a cause of sleep disorders

Schlafmagazin: Medikamente als Ursache für Schlafstörungen, Frau liegt nachts wach

Medicines help our body fight illnesses and relieve pain, inflammation or other discomfort. However, they intervene in a wide variety of biological processes, which can also cause sleep behavior to become noticeably out of balance. Certain medications interfere with the natural sleep cycle. Unfortunately, in some cases it is impossible to prevent sleep disorders from occurring. However, sleep is often only temporarily affected until the body has adjusted to the medication.

3. Medications that disrupt sleep

The effect of antidepressants, high blood pressure and heart medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, but also painkillers containing caffeine. Cough medicines or medicines for asthma and rheumatism as well as many other medicines can mean that we can no longer get restful sleep. We'll show you 5 common medications that can cause sleep disorders.

Blood pressure lowering drugs (antihypertensives)

Beta blockers or Beta-receptor blockers are used to treat high blood pressure or heart failure. They slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure, which relieves the strain on the heart by inhibiting the effects of the stress hormone adrenaline and the messenger substance norepinephrine.

These two substances are also involved in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin! Taking beta blockers also impairs melatonin synthesis and often leads to problems falling asleep and staying asleep because there is a lack of melatonin in the body.


Antidepressants belong to the group of psychotropic drugs and are used to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and personality disorders. They usually have a mood-enhancing effect and, depending on the type of medication, have an activating or depressing effect.

Both the so-called “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants can disrupt melatonin synthesis and thus cause unpleasant sleep disorders. This is due to the fact that antidepressants in the brain affect nerve connections or the activity of important messenger substances, especially norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. These hormones are also involved in regulating the sleep mechanism. According to studies, the drug changes lead, among other things, to the suppression of REM sleep and the decrease in the amount of REM sleep, which means that affected patients often report increased dreaming or nightmares.


Antipsychotics are used for states of agitation, psychoses or mental illnesses and particularly affect the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is also involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Depending on the medication, it can also have a positive impact on sleep. Some antipsychotics are therefore used specifically to promote sleep and sleepiness. However, if taken long-term, this effect can be reversed and disrupt restful sleep.

Schlafmagazin: Medikamente als Ursache für Schlafstörung, Glas Wasser und Medizin-Tablette zur Einnahme

Medicines against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases

People who suffer from Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease often suffer from sleep disorders due to the symptoms. But medications used in therapy can also affect sleep. They act in the dopamine circuit and, especially if the dosage is incorrect, can have a negative effect on the psyche, promote nightmares and cause movement disorders that disrupt sleep at night.

Pain or cough medicines containing caffeine

Due to its activating effect, caffeine is also used as an effect enhancer in some painkillers or cold medicines. As we all know, caffeine has a stimulating effect and makes you awake, which can hinder the process of falling asleep in the evening.

4. Sleep well despite medication and side effects

Medicines are prescribed to maintain health and improve the well-being of patients. Unfortunately, side effects can never be completely ruled out and how a medication works always depends heavily on the individual body and illness or the dosage of the medication. If you suffer from sleep disorders and suspect that a medication could be the trigger, the first step you should take is to contact your doctor. Contact your doctor and discuss drug therapy with him/her. In some cases it may be possible to change the preparation or to pay attention to a specific time of taking it so that sleep is not affected too much.

Please remember that you should never take or stop taking medicines on your own initiative. This article does not replace medical advice.

If you cannot do without medication for health reasons, you can try to support your sleep naturally and create the best possible conditions for a restful night. For example, by improving your sleep hygiene and bed environment.

5. Conclusion

  • Taking certain medications can lead to difficulty falling asleep, problems staying asleep, nightmares or shortened sleep at night.
  • Medications that can have a negative effect on sleep include antihypertensives (beta blockers), antidepressants, antipsychotics, medications for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, or painkillers and cold medications that contain caffeine.
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