If You Can't Sleep, This OTC Medication Could Be Why, Experts Say

Taking this medication too close to bedtime could leave you tossing and turning all night.

When you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, your brain tends to wander, trying to pinpoint what's causing your sleepless night. There are a slew of potential reasons behind your inability to get some shut-eye—from stress to anxiety to conditions like hyperthyroidism or kidney disease. But sometimes, the culprit is right there on your nightstand. If you're having trouble sleeping, experts suggest you turn your attention to a certain common medication, seeing as there are a few over-the-counter (OTC) meds that could be keeping you up at night. To see which OTC medication you shouldn't take before you go to sleep, read on, and for advice about meds and your coronavirus vaccination, check out The Only Medication You Should Take Before Your COVID Vaccine, Experts Say.

Any medication with caffeine in it could be ruining your sleep.

Close up of woman holding vitamins in open hand while taking morning medication
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It's well known that caffeine negatively affects sleep, but you don't only need to worry about having a cup of coffee too late in the day—you should also be checking the contents of any medication you're taking close to bedtime. Many common OTC meds contain caffeine, from Excedrin to Midol, so check the ingredients to make sure that pill you pop before bed won't keep you up.

And for another type of drug that could cause you trouble, check out If You Take This Medication, U.S. Officials Have a New Warning for You.

Caffeine is often used as an ingredient in headache medications.

Shot of a senior man suffering with a headache at home and looking stressed out
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While it may seem like a strange addition to medication, caffeine is commonly found in headache and migraine medications.

"During a headache, blood vessels swell, tighten or go through other changes, causing an increase in blood flow around the brain. This increases blood flow pressures surrounding nerves, which send pain messages to the brain. This brings on the headache," explain the experts at the Mayo Clinic. "Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties, meaning that blood vessels narrow to restrict blood flow, thereby alleviating the pain."

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Don't take any medication that contains caffeine less than six hours before bedtime.

View Through Bathroom Cabinet Of Mature Woman Taking Medication With Glass Of Water
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A Nov. 2013 study from The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that "caffeine taken six hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep." So, if you tend to go to bed around 10 p.m., don't take any OTC medications with caffeine past 4 p.m. unless you want to be up all night.

The Sleep Foundation notes that some people may need an even longer period without caffeine before bed, so keep track of how it affects your sleep, adjusting the length of time between the OTC meds and bedtime as needed.

To make sure how you're medicating isn't a problem, beware that If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.

There are caffeine-free versions of some popular headache medications.

Senior man taking prescription medicine at home
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If you need to take a pain reliever before bed, it's best to seek out one that doesn't contain caffeine. Midol sells a caffeine-free pill, and Excedrin has a special nighttime formula that is also devoid of caffeine.

Additionally, you can stick to other common OTC pain relievers such as Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, and Aleve.

And to learn which OTC medication is best for your specific ailment, check out This Is When You Should Take Tylenol Instead of Advil, Doctors Say.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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