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What to do if your medications are causing drowsiness?

While medications are taken for important reasons, like improving symptoms, quality of life, or extending the length of our lives, any medication you take could have side effects. Though the medication may be helping with your health condition, a side effect is an unwanted reaction in addition to the benefits of the medication. A common medication side effect is drowsiness. Drowsiness or sleepiness from medications may occur even if you got a full night’s rest the night before.

What medications cause drowsiness?

Certain medications are prone to causing drowsiness, like medications used to treat pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression, allergies, seizures, cancer, high blood pressure, and/or muscle relaxants (this is not an all-inclusive list). Different medications may work in different ways to cause drowsiness. In some cases, drowsiness could be caused by affecting the chemicals in your brain, and in others it may be caused by physically slowing down your heart or blood pressure leading to tiredness. Sometimes these effects go away after your body gets used to being on the medication.

Also see our blog on The Side Effects of Blood Pressure Medications

What should I do if my medication is causing me to feel tired?

If you’re experiencing sleepiness from your medication, do not stop taking the medication without talking to your doctor. Discuss with your doctor if there is another medication option that does not cause drowsiness. If you need to continue taking the medication, there are a few things to try to reduce side effects:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can take the medicine at bedtime instead of in the morning
  • Try not to nap throughout the day, and if you must take a nap, keep it short (between 10-20 minutes)
  • Get at least a full 8 hours of sleep at night
  • Try completing light exercise each day, this can help give you more energy
  • Be careful about what you eat – eating high sugar or carbohydrate meals may make you feel more sleepy
    • Include lean proteins and eat light and healthy
  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid or limit marijuana
  • Try sipping cold water when you feel tired
  • Drink small amounts of caffeine (don’t go overboard)

Feeling drowsy can lead to serious problems including falls, or trouble with work or school performance. Be cautious when you’re driving or doing activities that require you to be alert. Always talk to your doctor before discontinuing your medication. If any medication side effects ever become unbearable, talk with your doctor about what to do.

Resources:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Andrea M. Jones

Dr. Andrea M. Jones is a clinical pharmacist specializing in transitions of care to facilitate a smooth transition for patients between the hospital and outpatient settings. Dr. Jones graduated from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and completed post-graduate year 1 residency at the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Jones also worked in retail/community pharmacies for over 5 years during undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky and pharmacy school at the University of Colorado.

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