Associated Health Conditions


Various illnesses keep people awake, or disturb sleep. Insomnia can become chronic.

These health difficulties include pain (from a range of illnesses), breathlessness, indigestion, coughing, allergies, itching, hot flushes, menopause, dementia, mental health problems, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson?s disease, arthritis, asthma, kidney disease, chronic stress, nocturnal bathroom visits.

The list goes on.

Muscle tension, Cramps, Twitches
Tinnitus and Menieres disease
Restless Legs Syndrome
Sleep Apnoea

The University of Iowa recently conducted a study in a rural community on the association between the amount of sleep people get with their risk of injury. The researchers found that sleeping for less than 7.5 hours nightly increased a person’s risk of injury by 61%, compared with sleeping 7.5 to 8.5 hours nightly.

The results suggest that adequate sleep is important in preventing injury in rural populations; and some may extrapolate that it could extend to others as well.

Source: American National Sleep Foundation, March 7, 2006.


Almost all medications have a wide variety of possible side effects. Be aware of any psychological changes you experience whenever you are using a “new” prescription. Sometimes the side effects can become less over time, sometimes they may worsen. Please refer all side effect information to your doctor. Listed below are some examples of side effects to be aware of. The information is not conclusive.

The Side-effect of Drowsiness
Drowsiness is a side effect of antihistamines, which are normally used for allergies. They have therefore, been used by some insomniacs. They do not have problems of tolerance and addiction, but they can cause drowsiness and a hangover effect in the morning. You do not require a prescription for some antihistamines.

The Side-effect of Insomnia
Drugs quoted in this group include anti-depressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors SSRIs).

Some of these drugs can also cause a sense of restlessness, agitation, or nervousness in some people, which may range from moderate to severe.

The Side-effect of Depression and/or Anxiety
As depression and anxiety have both been linked with insomnia, care should be taken around using drugs that will have the side effect of depression or anxiety. This could worsen your problem.

Drugs that may cause depression in some people include some cholesterol-reducing drugs, immunomodifiers used to treat hepatitis B and C, MS drugs, carcinoma (e.g. some interferon drugs), HIV drugs etc.

Many recreational drugs can cause depression or anxiety including alcohol, or alcohol withdrawal, amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy, crystal and ketamine (special K).  Since some of these drugs are attractive to the depressed, their use may exacerbate the depression, and finding solutions can sometimes become more challenged.

The Side-Effect of Stress
Other negative side effects of drugs that can lead to extra stress in your life include drugs that decrease libido, weight gain or loss, nausea, stomach ache, increased cholesterol levels, cause sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, headache, sweating and so on.

The Side-Effect of Addiction
Can’t sleep without sleeping tablets? The initial solution can become part of a bigger problem. If you suddenly stop taking regular sleeping tablets or other sedative medicines, you may experience “rebound” insomnia.

For more information about sleeping tablets (including types of, withdrawal symptoms, help, etc) go to Getting Off Sleeping Tablets.

Decongestants including cold and sinus relief, and flu medications.

Adverse reaction to these medicines can include insomnia, drowsiness, sedation, nervousness, sleep disturbances, sleeplessness and central nervous system stimulation.

Other drugs effecting sleep include diuretics (water tablets), some anti-depressants, steroids, beta-blockers, some slimming tablets, painkillers, some cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine.


Dr. Mindell and Dr. Barry Jacobson’s study Sleep Disturbances During Pregnancy showed that women start waking up during the night at the onset of pregnancy, but by the end 97.3% were waking at night, an average of 3.11 times! Two thirds of the women who woke up at night awakened five or more nights per week. Source: American Sleep Foundation, April 2005.

A poll performed by the American National Sleep Foundation in 1998 showed that up to 15 percent of pregnant women develop restless legs syndrome during the third trimester.

Some tips for pregnancy (taken from the above source):

  • Sleep on your left side. This allows for the best blood flow to the foetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Try to avoid lying on your back for extended periods of time.
  • If you are experiencing leg cramps you may want to avoid carbonated sodas and drinks.
  • If you develop Restless Legs Syndrome, you may want to talk to your health care physician about an iron deficiency.


Narcolepsy causes a person to fall asleep without warning. It is the most serious sleep disorder (because it can happen in moving vehicles etc) and thankfully is a rarity affecting only about 0.05 per cent of adults worldwide. The trigger can heightened emotions such as surprise or anger.

If you think this could be you, please investigate it further without delay, as some people find out definitively only after “falling asleep at the wheel of a car” or similar episode.


Some HIV drugs and anti-viral agents have the effect of insomnia, depression, fatigue, abnormal dreams, lethargy, somnolence (sleepiness), body fat accumulation etc.

HIV-positive men can have low testosterone levels, which may cause decreased energy, loss of sexual desire, and feelings of depression.

HIV itself can affect the brain so as to produce symptoms of depression, and a number of the medicines used in the treatment of HIV can worsen insomnia (see above).