“May cause drowsiness” is a common warning that you’ve probably seen on a medication bottle. And you may also have experienced medications that keep you awake. But did you know that your sleep can affect how well your medications work? It can also impact side effects, how much medication you might need, and maybe even whether you need some medications at all. In other words, your sleep routine can not only influence how you feel, but also how well your medications contribute to your overall health.
Poor sleep has consequences. In the short term, it can leave you feeling groggy, cloudy, and irritable. Over time, it can lead to serious health issues including diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. But here’s something that you may not be aware of: poor sleep can change how your medications work or cause you to need higher dosages. For example, a lack of sleep has been linked to worsening depression and anxiety, which may work against medications that you’re using to treat your mood.1 Poor sleep can also increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels in some people, resulting in the need for additional medications or higher doses of current medications.2,3 If you take medications for these conditions, getting quality sleep each night is an important way to help make sure your medications are working at their best.
While poor sleep can increase your risk for other health conditions, it can also increase the side effects of your current medications. For example, a bad night’s sleep can decrease your attention span, memory, and decision-making skills.4 If you already experience these side effects with your current medications, poor sleep could make them worse.
With many medications, it’s important to take doses at the same time each day. If you don’t have a regular sleep routine, you are probably going to bed or waking up at different times—which means it can be hard to stick to a regular medication schedule. You may find yourself taking doses earlier or later than normal each day, or you may miss a dose altogether. And that can affect whether you have the right amount of medication in your body at the right time.
The connections between sleep and medications are complex—and different for everyone. But one thing is clear: quality sleep is good for your overall well-being. Whether it’s your medications, heart health, or mood, sleep plays an important role. Unfortunately, getting good sleep is a struggle for many. If that describes you, check out our interactive quiz on things that can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
A licensed MOBE Pharmacist can help you minimize risks and make the most of your medications—including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbals, and supplements. Get started today.
1. “Depression and Sleep,” Rob Newsom, Sleep Foundation, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/depression-and-sleep.
2. Paolo Lusardi et al., “Effects of Insufficient Sleep on Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Patients: a 24-h Study,” American Journal of Hypertension 12, no. 1 (January 1999): 63-68, https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/12/1/63/159196.
3. “Sleep and Blood Glucose Levels,” Danielle Pacheco, Sleep Foundation, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/sleep-and-blood-glucose-levels.
4. Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola, “Sleep Deprivation: Impact on Cognitive Performance,” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 3, no. 5 (October 2007): 553-567, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/.