Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Sleep health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Drug and alcohol related sleep problems

Insomnia and sleep disorders can have many causes, including medicine 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:

  • High blood pressure medications
  • Hormones such as oral contraceptives
  • Steroids including prednisolone
  • Inhaled respiratory medications
  • Diet tablets
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications
  • Some antidepressants

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 dose. Bedtime alcohol consumption among older adults may lead to unsteadiness if walking is attempted during the night, with increased risk of falls and injuries.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 17, 2013

Popular Slideshows & Tools on Boots WebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
humbug hard candies
Diarrhoea & more
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
cute dog
10 common allergy triggers
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
hand extinguishing cigarette
13 best tips to stop smoking
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
crossword puzzle
Help for the first hard days
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
adult man contemplating
Visual guide to BPH
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting