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Drug and alcohol related sleep problems

Insomnia and sleep disorders can have many causes, including medication side effects, too much alcohol and drug misuse.

While a night-cap may help some people get off to sleep, for others it can mean sleepless nights.

Research has found a link between the amount of alcohol a person drinks and the effect on sleep.

Nicotine from smoking can also affect sleep patterns.

Drugs and sleep

Many prescription and non-prescription medications can cause sleep problems. The severity of sleep problems caused by a drug will vary from person to person.

Prescription medicines that may cause sleep problems include:

The following non-prescription drugs can cause sleep problems:

  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Medications with caffeine, including cough and cold medications
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines
  • Nicotine, which can disrupt sleep and reduce total sleep time. Smokers report more daytime sleepiness and minor accidents than do non-smokers, especially in younger age groups

Alcohol and sleep

Alcohol often is thought of as a sedative or calming drug. While alcohol may induce sleep, the quality of sleep is often fragmented during the second half of the sleep period. Alcohol increases the number of times you awaken in the later half of the night when the alcohol's relaxing effect wears off. It prevents you from getting the deep sleep and REM sleep you need because alcohol keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.

With continued consumption just before bedtime, alcohol's sleep-inducing effect may decrease as its disruptive effects continue or increase. The sleep disruption resulting from alcohol use may lead to daytime fatigue and sleepiness. Elderly people are at particular risk of alcohol-related sleep disorders because they achieve higher levels of alcohol in the blood and brain than do younger adults after consuming an equivalent amount. Bedtime alcohol consumption among older adults may lead to unsteadiness if walking is attempted during the night, with increased risk of falls and injuries.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 01, 2015

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