Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Drugs Can Influence on Your Sleep

Posted by Gary Peterson on Jul 29, 2019 9:55:00 AM

Having just one night where you didn’t get enough sleep can lead to a very grumpy morning where you can’t handle stress and all you can think about is just going home and getting some sleep. Now imagine, having to deal with that every single day as the situation worsens.

It’s no surprise that chronic sleep deprivation is connected to drug abuse, obesity, having trouble concentrating, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, and many other psychological states.

When it comes to substance abuse, which is one of the biggest public health problems, sleep disorders are extremely common. It’s a vicious cycle; people that have trouble sleeping are trying to self-medicate with sleep medication, and then use stimulants to wake up during the daylight. It can go the other way too.

People that are already addicted to drugs can have a high relapse rate because they can’t go to sleep without using substances.

Different drugs have different effects on the body and the mind. However, every single type of them causes to some extent problems with sleeping which makes things very difficult for people that are trying to stop using. Let’s dive deeper into each type of drugs and their effects on the sleep cycle.


This type of drugs are slowing down or depressing the central nervous system. Basically what they do is they slow down the delivery of messages to your brain and the response from your brain.

medsThey are mostly used because they give a relaxing feeling to the person that is using them if they are used in small dosages. However, if they are used in higher quantities they can have serious consequences among which is death. People that are using depressants have lower concentration, slow response, poor coordination, and many other problems.

Depressants should not be used while operating with vehicles or heavy machinery.

Substances:  alcohol, cannabis, opiates (morphine, codeine, heroin), GHB, minor tranquilizers.        

Depressants at first, are seemingly helping out with falling asleep since they are making the organism more relaxed and numb to stimulants. For example, alcohol surely does help with making you fall asleep but the quality of that sleep is very bad quite often.

If you ever got a few more drinks in you than you should have, you probably know this. Sleeping under the influence of alcohol increases the risk of snoring, sleep apnea, night sweats, nightmares, and more. This is because at night the body cools down and makes you sleepy and full of melatonin.

When the day comes, your body temperature rises to give your brain sings to wake up. Alcohol initially drops your temperature, but soon after it rises it which is why you can sweat and have restless sleep. It also shortens the REM cycle. Cannabis work on the same principle, and other depressants as well. Just slightly less.


This category of drugs does the opposite of the depressants. They stimulate or speed up the central nervous system. The messages that go to and from your brain are very fast which gives you the feeling of confidence and alertness.

However, this comes with a price. Increased heart rate, anxiety, panic, seizures and in extreme cases even paranoia.

Substances: caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), amphetamines like speed and Ice, and more.

It’s very logical to think about how drugs that are energizing you will interfere with your sleeping habits. The drugs are creating a high and overstimulating your whole organism with dopamine.

This makes it practically impossible to get relaxed enough so you can fall asleep. Patients that are in withdrawal can experience hypersomnia which is also an abomination of the normal sleep cycle. Stimulants also reduce the REM sleep time causing sleep deprivation that can affect their day-to-day life.

When it comes to MDMA, sleep habits can be ruined permanently. The drug affects the sleep architecture, and users see the symptoms much faster than other drug type’s users.


Opioids are substances that are primarily used as pain-relief medication including anesthesia. When our bodies are in extreme amounts of pain, opioids can help out a lot. They are prescribed to people that have chronic pain, cancer, post-surgery, or other.

Substances: methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, and others.

Most of the opioids are available by prescription which gives the false sense of security. After all, they wouldn’t prescribe them if they were so dangerous and addictive, right? You’re wrong.

Opioids are needed in medicine, but when abused they have a similar effect like stimulants. They make people less resistant to pain, which makes them take more opioids. This results in an addiction which can progress very fast. When it comes to sleep, opioids are cutting the REM sleep in half.

REM sleep is very important because it restores your muscles and body tissue. The less you have it, the less you’ll feel rested in the morning. Opioid users get also increased risk for central sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome.

In addition to these types of drugs, many others influence sleep quality. From anti-depressants, to sleep medication- they all have a certain way of disrupting what is supposed to be a natural bodily cycle. Knowing how to detox from bad habits is crucial. There are some things that you can do to improve your sleeping health like:

  • Avoid drugs, caffeine, alcohol or any medication that is not crucial for you
  • Go to sleep when you’re tired
  • Get physical, so you can get tired
  • Have a ritual that you always do before sleeping
  • Create a dark, quiet sleeping environment
  • Avoid naps especially late in the afternoon
  • Don’t eat at least three hours before going to sleep
  • In the morning, allow the sunlight to shine inside the room. This regulates your inner clock.
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day

If you’re struggling with addiction and sleeping problems, the wisest thing you can do is get in touch with a doctor and figure out a treatment plan specifically for you.

If you live in Alaska and need to find a doctor, call Alaska Sleep Clinic today to connect with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.


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Author bio:

Gary Peterson is working at NCSM.  He was born and raised in New York. Gary is a professional writer who specializes in SEO, social problems, email marketing, and healthcare. He likes traveling and taking gorgeous photos of nature. Rock music is something that inspires him. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter.

Topics: life with sleep apnea, medication

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