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Prescription drugs and sleep aids may hurt sleep, from the Harvard Health Letter

The thieves that are stealing sleep from millions of Americans may be lurking in their medicine cabinets. Prescription sleep aids and other prescription medications can interfere with much-needed ZZZs, reports the December 2012 Harvard Health Letter.

Sleep is essential to good health, and a lack of it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, weight gain, and diabetes. Yet one in five Americans struggle with insomnia every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. "Prescription drugs can be a serious problem," says sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Some prescription sleep aids, when taken for long periods of time, become less effective and actually interfere with sleep. Other types of prescription medications may also interfere with sleep. Some contain stimulants that make it difficult to fall asleep. Others—like steroids, antidepressants, and some medicines for migraine, heart disease, and allergies—can wake you with nausea, night sweats, or needing to go to the bathroom.

Read the full-length article: "Better sleep means better health"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Health Letter

  • Better sleep means better health …
  • Ask the doctor: Alternative medicine: the inside scoop
  • Ask the doctor: Bariatric surgery and diabetes
  • Missing out on aspirin therapy?
  • High blood sugar linked to brain shrinkage
  • Making peace with holiday buffets
  • In search of vitamin D
  • Do-it-yourself skin cancer checks
  • Losing your sense of smell?
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • What you should know about: Aspirin during a heart attack
  • News briefs: Education, psychological support vital for ICD users
  • News briefs: Understand your heightened risk of blood clots if you have rheumatoid arthritis
  • News briefs: Total knee replacements on the rise, despite high costs
  • News briefs: The secrets of longevity

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.