Drugs that Keep You Awake at Night

We have stressed several times in many articles of the website that drugs can have a detrimental effect on your sleep: not only stimulant drugs, many of which are taken unwittingly every day: but also, ironically, sleeping drugs themselves; and, of course, the most heavily consumed sleep-inducing drug in the world, alcohol. Drugs that keep you awake throughout the night are described in detail step by step.

Drugs that keep you awake

We will examine first the most obvious category of sleep-disturbers the stimulants; then we will explain the ways in which different types of sleeping drugs work, and how they can have the opposite to their intended effect; and finally we will be offering guidelines for the safe and beneficial short-term use of sleeping pills. 


Nicotine is the commonest drug of addiction in the world, and most people are aware that its intake in the form of tobacco smoke is the cause of chest diseases, heart diseases, arterial diseases, digestive disorders, and cancer.

It is not so widely known that nicotine absorbed by inhalation of tobacco smoke also stimulates the nervous system, increases the depth of breathing, and raises the blood pressure.

It brings about the release of the hormone adrenaline (epinephrine) in the body, which, as we mentioned in this article, increases energy and liveliness and counteracts the effect of bodybuilding hormones that restore us while we sleep.


After smoking a cigarette, the concentration of nicotine in the blood rises, and, depending upon the individual, the next cigarette is not smoked until the level of nicotine has fallen considerably.

If the amount of nicotine in cigarettes is deliberately halved, then the rate of smoking them just about doubles. Unknown to themselves, people smoke in a way that keeps the amount of nicotine in their tissues fairly constant.

Desperate to get the last drag, and unaware that nicotine will disturb their sleep, many clouds of smoke at bedtime (a dangerous practice, in any case, that is a frequent cause of fires).

Quite apart from the coughing and the wheezing from years of damage to the lungs from the tobacco, the nicotine acts on the brain cells to interfere with sleep and make it less deep or actually broken.

The nicotine in the body’s tissues disappears only gradually during the first few hours of sleep, but just how rapidly varies a great deal.

In someone whose urine is characteristically alkaline, the nicotine will persist in the body about four times as long as someone whose urine is characteristically acid. (Whether the urine is acid or alkaline depends very much on the habitual diet.) These is the drugs that keep you awake.

Whether you suffer from insomnia or not, we would strongly advise you to give up smoking.


This is another widely consumed drug that keeps you awake. Coffee, of course, is a widely enjoyed drink that contains caffeine.

If you want to enjoy a cup of coffee before bedtime without late being kept awake, decaffeinated coffees, that have very little, if any, stimulating effect, are readily available.

Drugs that keep you awake at night

Most people are aware that caffeine in coffee is a stimulant drug. It is not so widely known that the nicotine inhaled from tobacco smoke can also disturb sleep.

Many people do not realize that tea, especially strong tea, also contains a lot of caffeine, together with a related chemical called theophylline.

They are both drugs that increase the feeling of energy, increase the body’s temperature, and cause greater wakefulness. Even cocoa, often drunk at bedtime, contains quite a lot of caffeine.

Caffeine is also found in cola drinks when it comes from the nuts of Coal acuminate (guru nuts) that give the drink its distinctive flavor.

We once had a patient, a middle-aged man, who came and spent some weeks in Edinburgh so that we could help him sleep better.

He was from West Africa and, in that hot climate, he had for a long time made it a habit to quaff about seven bottles of cola drink each evening. The practice was not the only reason why he was a bad sleeper but certainly contributed towards it.

Many over-the-counter preparations, especially pain-killers, contain caffeine, so it is always worth checking their contents before taking them in the evening or at night.

Finally, we can say that caffeine is one of the most common drugs that keep you awake.

Prescribed drugs

A few drugs deliberately prescribed can act as disturbers of sleep. Several antidepressant drugs make people have sudden jumps of the body at night, while a few, such as viloxazine (Vivalan) actually increase wakefulness in a manner similar to caffeine.

Slimming pills also keep you awake; the most widely used has been drugs like dexamphetamine (Dexedrine) or phenmetrazine (Preludin).

They are very powerful drugs for disturbing sleep and keeping you awake, as well as for taking away your appetite for the first couple of weeks of intake.

Apart from ruining your sleep, slimming by means of pills is not a good idea anyway, since as soon as you stop taking them you will probably put back on all the weight you have lost.

It is far better to lose weight by putting yourself on a calorie-controlled diet. But before going to all this trouble, perhaps just to lose the odd pound so you can fit into the latest fashionable clothes, it would be worthwhile to read another page, which reveals some interesting links between food, your weight, and your sleep.

The commonest prescribed drugs associated with a disturbance of sleep are the diuretic or water-losing drugs. There are many different diuretic drugs, but they are all designed to remove excess fluid from the body and are often used in the treatment of heart trouble or high blood pressure. Inevitably, they mean getting up to pass water more often at night.

A urine bottle or chamber pot kept beside the bed will minimize the disturbance to your sleep. 

Increased sensitivity with age

It is important to realize that just as natural aging is associated with spontaneously more broken sleep, so the older brain becomes more sensitive to drugs that affect sleep or wakefulness.

Many young people drink coffee or smoke cigarettes in the evening or even at bedtime with no adverse effect on their sleep. Young people in their twenties usually sleep so well that nothing will disturb them.

Should they continue their habits of drinking coffee and smoking into their thirties, they may wonder why they begin to have difficulty in falling asleep and why their sleep at night is restless.

The explanation lies in the fact that their sleep is now being disturbed by the caffeine in their coffee or by the nicotine in their cigarettes because their brains have now become more sensitive to those stimulant drugs than when they were younger.

The older you are, the more sensitive you will be to sleep drugs also. And it is to these that we shall now turn our attention.

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2 thoughts on “Drugs that Keep You Awake at Night”

  1. This is a excellent blog. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. It provide me lots of new information about sleep and drugs. I truly appreciate individuals like you!

    Take care!!

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