8 sneaky substances that are stealing your sleep

I’ve talked plenty in the past about insomnia … and how lack of sleep is terrible for your health. I’ve told you about things you can do to sleep better (for instance, eating three square meals at regular intervals and taking natural supplements, like melatonin

I’ve also uncovered some hidden culprits behind insomnia—most notably adrenal fatigue. (You can read more about this little-known condition in the June 2014 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. Subscribers can download and view it for free by visiting www.drpescatore.com and logging on to the “Subscriber sign-in” area with your username and password. And if you’re not already a subscriber, the website also has all the details you need to sign up today.)

Still, trouble sleeping is common in so many of my patients. And they’re not alone: 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders. So it’s important to look at ALL the potential causes.

Today, let’s take a look at eight sneaky substances that could be robbing you of your valuable sleep:

  1. You know I’m not against a cocktail, especially if we’re talking spirits (which have less sugar than wine or beer). And, for many people, a nightcap may make it a little easier to get to sleep. But alcohol has been shown to disrupt REM sleep—the deepest, most restorative kind— leaving you in the lighter stages, where wake-ups are common. Meaning you don’t exactly feel rested the next morning. I’m not saying it’s imperative to skip your evening cocktail. But if you’re having trouble staying asleep or find yourself overly tired in the morning, it may be worth  toasting a little bit earlier in the evening.
  1. It’s no surprise that caffeine can make it more difficult both to get to sleep and stay asleep. And you may already skip that afternoon cup of coffee or tea to avoid the tossing and turning it can cause. But here’s something you may not know: caffeine is hiding in many other things you ingest. Chocolate is one common culprit. And a lot of over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers also contain caffeine. In fact, some over-the-counter headache medications, have as much caffeine as a full cup of coffee in one dose. Read those labels!
  1. Just like caffeine, nicotine acts as a stimulant. And, just like caffeine, it can keep you up at night. You know I don’t support smoking or chewing tobacco, and this is just one more reason to quit.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): This class of drugs includes some of the most widely recognized and prescribed antidepressants, such citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluoxetine (Prozac). But SSRIs come with a huge array of side effects, including a huge array of sleep disrupting symptoms—from insomnia and daytime sleepiness to restless leg syndrome. The good news is, there are proven natural supplements that can help you lift your mood. (You can read more about them in the November 2013 issue of Logical Health Alternatives.)

Tricyclic antidepressants. Medications in this drug class (including amitriptyline, amoxapine, and clomipramine) have sleep-stealing side effects that are similar to SSRIs: insomnia and restless leg syndrome. Like a number of others on this list, they also disrupt your deepest REM sleep, which explains why they’ve also been shown to increase morning grogginess and daytime sleepiness. (Again, review the November 2013 issue of Logical Health Alternatives for more info on natural alternatives. You can also type “depression” into the search bar in the upper-right-hand corner of www.drpescatore.com for a complete listing of everything I’ve written on this topic.)

Angiotensin-converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors. Obviously, controlling blood pressure is a critical aspect of health. But the common blood pressure drug class known as ACE inhibitors—which includes benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), and lisinopril (Prinivil)—has a laundry list of side effects. And one of them in particular can play havoc with your sleep. These drugs commonly cause a terribly annoying cough. And for many patients, this cough gets worse at night. Which can obviously result in severely compromised sleep. For information on safe, natural ways to rein in high blood pressure, check out my past article, “The silent killer you may not be taking seriously,” which appeared back in the October 2012 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. (Once again, subscribers can access this issue—and the complete archive—by visiting www.drpescatore.com and logging in to the Subscriber area of the website. And you can also search for more information on the topic by typing “blood pressure” into the Search function at the top of the page.)

  1. Oral corticosteroids—like methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisolone, and prednisone—are prescribed for a huge range of reasons. And, among their other side effects, they’ve been shown to negatively impact sleep in several ways. Steroids can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. And they can also cause abnormal dreams that disrupt quality rest. If you’re taking one of these medications, I encourage you to search my website for your particular concern to see if I’ve written about any natural alternatives.

Saving the worst for last: Statins. If you’ve been reading the Reality Health Check for awhile, you’re already well aware that statins rank as my most despised drug class of all time. And for good reason. They’ve been shown to increase the risk of everything from cataracts to brain fog to diabetes. And they’ve also been associated with an array of sleep issues—from insomnia to daytime fatigue. As I’ve said before, the only thing statins are good for is lowering cholesterol. But so-called “high cholesterol” just isn’t the heart risk mainstream medicine and Big Pharma have brainwashed everyone to think. In fact, there are much more important risk factors for heart disease you should be addressing. And, even better—there are safe, simple, natural solutions for all of them. In fact, I wrote an entire, detailed special report, called The World’s Easiest Heart Disease Cure, which tells you exactly how to achieve optimal heart health without risky prescription drugs. If you don’t already have a copy, I encourage you to pick one up today. [link to: https://shop.drpescatore.com/Product.aspx?ProductCode=OV1SRHART]

So, there you have it. Eight sneaky culprits that could be stealing your sleep. Plus lots of alternative solutions that won’t keep you up at night. And, of course, don’t forget the importance of good sleep hygiene: Shut off the TV and computer an hour before you go to bed. Keep smartphones, tablets and e-readers out of your bedroom. And make sure your room is as dark as possible—even the light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt sleep in sensitive people.


“Drugs That Negatively Affect Sleep. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2014; 8(6): 383-385.