Apart from letting the body rest from the rigors of the day, sleep is essential to physical and emotional health. Adequate sleep (7-9 hours a night for adults, more for children) plays an integral role in helping the body recover from illness and injury. Did you know that there are commonly used over the counter (OTC) medicines that can seriously mess with having a restful night’s sleep?
Inadequate sleep or occasional sleep problems over a period of time are linked to increased risk for depression, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity – among other serious health issues. Chronic insomnia can trigger psychiatric problems with memory, cognitive learning, logical reasoning, judgment, and mathematical calculations.
Loss of sleep can negatively affect personal relationships and career potential and can even result in serious or fatal accidents. Sleep disorders increase with age and can be exacerbated by illness and dysfunction of various systems of the body. Whether due to work, stress, body aches and pains, or even a new baby, reduced or inconsistent quality sleep is never good for the body and mind.
Many prescription and nonprescription drugs can cause sleep problems. The severity varies from person to person, so it’s not always clear whether one person’s sleep will be affected the same way by a certain drug or medication as another person. Certain medications for minor or chronic ailments can upset normal sleep patterns, causing sleep-deprivation or daytime drowsiness.
While some prescription drugs come with clearly noted side effects regarding sleep, such as ADHD medication, Asthma medication and other steroids, or smoking cessation drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medicine can also have a sneaky effect on your quality of sleep. Many of the remedies easily purchased at the market or drugstore can actually be keeping you from a good night’s sleep.
Nonprescription or OTC Drugs
Antihistamines & Decongestants – for colds and allergies can cause long-lasting drowsiness. Side effects may include altered mental state, urinary retention, and dry mouth, especially in the elderly. Sometimes, they even have the opposite affect of hyperactivity, especially in children.
If you’ve purchased a day/night pack for allergy or severe cold treatment, don’t get the different colors mixed up! One will make you sleepier at night so you won’t cough yourself awake, while the other helps dry you out and keep you awake during the day. Pseudoephedrine is a common ingredient in decongestant medicine and can seriously impact your ability to fall or stay asleep at night. Conversely, the diphenhydramine that acts as an antihistamine for easier breathing makes most people very drowsy.
Herbal medications. “Natural” medications can interfere with sleep. St. John’s Wort for depression can cause overstimulation and insomnia. Some dietary supplements can also cause sleep difficulties. For instance, the Chinese herb ginseng commonly causes insomnia because it is a natural stimulant.
Pain-relief medications – Did you know that some pain relief or headache medicine actually contains caffeine, which stimulates the brain and drives away sleep? Take a look at the fine print on the label when trying something new, or even if you suspect what you’re taking to be causing your sleep problems.
Parasomnias – Some sleeping pills have more complex, potentially harmful side effects, including uncontrollable and unconscious complex sleep behaviors, movements and actions such as:
- Sleep eating
- Sleep driving
- Disoriented actions
While non-prescription sleep aids that you can purchase over the counter at your drugstore or local market don’t have such serious side effects, they can still wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. Regular use of even non-prescription sleep aids can create a dependency that could keep you up at night!
If you are having problems getting or staying asleep, a sleep specialist can help diagnose and treat the problem. While a simple medicine or prescription change could solve the problem, it’s best to rule out other serious causes first. For more information about the connections between sleep and medications, or to schedule a sleep study, please call Gingras Sleep Medicine at (704) 944-0562 today or request an appointment online.