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10 drugs that harm sleep and may cause insomnia

We already know that drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit disorder, depression and hypertension may cause insomnia.

Today I want to get a bit more specific and share 10 medications that can harm sleep.


Often used to treat high blood pressure, alpha-blockers are thought to reduce rapid eye movement sleep.


Like alpha-blockers, beta-blockers are often used to treat high blood pressure but they're also used to help treat an irregular heartbeat.

Beta-blockers are thought to harm sleep by reducing melatonin production, resulting in nighttime awakenings and even nightmares.


Used to treat conditions related to inflammation (such as rheumatoid arthritis) this drug is thought to harm sleep since it can have a stimulant effect on our bodies.

Selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants

Used primarily to treat depression, SSRI antidepressants are linked with insomnia but it's not known how or why these drugs affect our sleep in such a negative way.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. ACE inhibitors enlarge blood vessels which can lead to chronic coughing which is obviously not helpful when you're trying to sleep.

These drugs can also lead to increased levels of potassium in the body, resulting in diarrhea and leg cramps.

Angiotensin II-receptor blockers (ARBs)

Often prescribed for heart conditions or type 2 diabetes, ARBs can increase potassium levels in the body - leading to leg cramps and other conditions that damage sleep.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

Used to treat memory loss, these drugs interfere with internal processes relating to sleep and can cause leg cramps and muscle spasms.

H1 antagonists

Antihistamines work by  blocking acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter). This can result in anxiety and insomnia.


Used to aid joint health, these drugs are linked with insomnia and a number of sleep damaging side-effects such as nausea, diarrhea and headaches.


Often used to treat high cholesterol, statins can cause muscle pain, nightmares and insomnia.

A warning (and the alternatives)

Of course, you should never change your medication based on a blog post - always speak to your doctor first.

For alternatives to the drugs listed above, hit the source link below.

Source: AARP

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Last updated: June 12, 2013

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • Thomas McKenna
    June 12, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Excellent summary of drugs that cause insomnia in one place. I reduced the amount of beta blocker I am taking down to 50mg when I read on the web that it has been linked to reduced melatonin production; may need to reduce it further but worry about effect on blood pressure. Note that nowhere on the insert my drug store provides with the medication does it list insomnia as a possible side effect. That is why the info you are providing is important.

    Also surprised anti histamines are linked to insomnia. The over-the-counter sleep meds you can purchase are really just glorified anti histamines – yet they cause sleepiness not insomnia. So I’m puzzled on this one.

    • Martin Reed
      June 12, 2013, 3:05 pm

      The anti-histamines surprised me, too.