Sleep problems top the list of common medication side effects. A simple search of labels from prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements, and herbal remedies approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) lists between 25,000-50,000 items that affect sleep.
Sleep-related side effects include insomnia, poor sleep quality, and some instances of fatigue and next-day grogginess. Here are the top four reasons a medication or supplement keeps you up at night or makes you feel drowsy far too long into the next day.
Reason #1: Melatonin Timing
Medications and supplements may interrupt melatonin’s release schedule. Melatonin typically makes you feel tired as it spikes in the hours leading up to bedtime, so low levels are associated with insomnia. Many blood pressure regulators disrupt sleep in this way.
Reason #2: Stimulants
Looking closely at supplement ingredients in particular, stimulants aren’t always obvious. Even if the list doesn’t name “caffeine” specifically, more than 60 plants contain this get-up-and-go chemical. Other natural ingredients can be just as stimulating – capsaicin from spicy peppers, for example.
Reason #3: REM Suppression
Sedating meds and supplements reduce the time you spend in REM (Random Eye Movement) or other deep sleep stages. This leaves you feeling like you didn’t sleep at all. Common culprits include SSRIs and anti-histamines.
Reason #4: Dosage
Optimal dosage varies by person for many medications and supplements taken for the purpose of aiding sleep. Take too high a dose of melatonin or CBD, for example, and you won’t be able to sleep. On the other hand, benzodiazepines stop working over time and require higher amounts to achieve the same effects.
How Understanding Medication Side Effects Benefits You
Knowing how commonly accepted interventions cause sleep issues prepares you to be your own health care advocate. You’re better able to discuss sleep concerns with your doctor. In particular, ask about alternate medications, better timing to take them, dosage changes, and either substitute or complementary approaches that will achieve similar health outcomes without compromising your sleep.
I’m a music therapist, dog mom, nature enthusiast, business owner, introvert, sleep and stress management coach, and research lover. My mission is to help you remove stress as a barrier to better health, greater happiness, and more meaningful connections with the people and passions that make life exciting.