The Power of Good Sleep – and How Meds Can Ruin It

How medication use could contribute to sleepless nights

Good sleep can at times be elusive. Nights are spent full of tossing and turning, days filled with yawns and heavy eyelids. Sleep is one of the most important factors toward good health, but it doesn’t always come easy. And medication use and timing may play a key role in attaining a proper night’s rest – and the ability to feel refreshed and function properly the next day.

What is good sleep?
Experts recommend getting between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. “Maintaining consistent amount of sleep each night is essential for daytime functioning—being on task, being alert for the day and being able to concentrate and not be so moody and tired during the day,” according to Roy Kohler, MD, who specializes in sleep medicine at SCL Health in Montana.

Sleeping less than six hours a night can lead to more stress and an increased risk of hypertension. It can also lead to weight gain, and an increased risk of developing cancer. But getting consistent quality sleep can protect against this damage and help to achieve a more positive outlook and productive day.

Elements that can impact poor sleep
Many conditions can impact the ability to get a good night’s rest. A lack of good-quality sleep could be a natural consequence of changing sleep-wake patterns. It could also be the result of ongoing health problems. Diet, lack of exercise, stress, and depression all contribute to poor sleep habits. But poor sleep can also be the result of learned behavior. Insomnia can stem from ingrained behavior such as staying up too late, ignoring signs of tiredness, or engaging in stimulating activities before bed. Many of these can be easily corrected with greater investment in nutrition, fitness, and meditation to help quiet the mind before bedtime, and making good sleep a priority.

Sleep habits and medication use
Good sleep may also be out of reach due to medication use for acute or chronic conditions. Many medications can interrupt normal sleep patterns. A number of common medications can inhibit the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Anti-arrhythmic drugs used to treat heart rhythm problems can cause insomnia and other sleep difficulties. Beta blockers, used for high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and angina, increase the chance of insomnia, awakenings at night, and nightmares. In addition, up to 20 percent of people who take a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, experience sleep problems.

These can be exacerbated by the combined use of over-the-counter medications that also contribute to insomnia.  Antihistamines used to treat colds and allergies cause drowsiness in most people.  Cough medicines can also prevent good sleep as they often contain alcohol, which can prevent deep REM sleep and lead to waking frequently throughout the night.

Tracking sleep habits
To help uncover some of the elements that may be contributing to poor sleep, a sleep tracker may be beneficial. Sleep tracking can also help to support a conversation with a physician about the factors that may be preventing a good night’s rest and leading to more serious health conditions. Luckily, the ability to track sleep is easier than ever before with an abundance of digital health tools.

Medisafe’s digital platform includes a sleep tracker that allows users to record sleep inputs as part of medication use. This information can be beneficial for patients to consult with a physician if they suspect medications may be preventing more restful sleep. Wearable devices such as the Apple Watch or Oura ring track sleep patterns, providing nightly analysis of levels of sleep, similar to fitness performance tracking. Either through a digital health platform, wearable device, or even a simple sleep log, monitoring sleep patterns can help to uncover the challenges to a better night’s rest and make changes toward better health.

Ways to improve sleep
When thinking about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep — from work stress and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, it’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive. While it might be impossible to control all the factors that interfere with sleep, some simple habits can encourage better sleep.

Keeping a sleep schedule and being mindful of elements such as caffeine use or medications that may prevent sleep are good tips toward gaining more rest.  Also dedicate a specific environment that is meant for sleeping. Calming activities before bed can also help to promote better sleep. If better sleep still remains out of reach, it may be beneficial to start tracking sleep habits and see if additional changes may help. Sleep is essential for function and can often help contribute to improved health and a positive outlook. The key to a better tomorrow may await you in a restful good night.

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