Stimulants and Sleep

Last updated: March 26, 2019

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One of the things that people really hate is lying in bed in the middle of the night, feeling awake and energized when they should be sound asleep. If you’ve ever had the same experience, then you may be able to blame it all on stimulants. Stimulants can keep you awake. They can make you feel alert and energized. There are hypnotics and sedatives to make you sleepy and on the other end of that spectrum are stimulants.

What exactly are stimulants?

Stimulants are substances that can help you feel more alert. Although we often think of drugs or medications when we hear the word stimulant, that is not always the case. Look around your home and you will find stimulants. Caffeine is an example of a stimulant. You can find caffeine in coffee and tea. Even your can of soda contains caffeine. That energy drink that you take when you hit the gym? It has caffeine too. Believe it or not, even something as benign as chocolate is a stimulant!

Caffeine is the most common stimulant and it’s available to almost anyone. Coffee is a way for many to counter any feelings of sleepiness during the day. It can help increase mental alertness and can also improve thinking pathways.

Many plants possess stimulants. They use this a part of their defense mechanism. When taken by humans, these naturally-occurring stimulants make the brain and body more active. You can also take stimulants in other forms. Nicotine and cocaine are examples of this type of stimulant. They are harmful to the body and can also cause addiction. Amphetamines are another example of a stimulant.

The stimulants mentioned above are those that we use to manage everyday sleepiness with cocaine and amphetamines being the obvious exemptions. But how about those who suffer from more severe cases like narcolepsy or sleep apnea? These cases require the use of stimulant medications. Stimulant medications have more stimulants and can offer more benefits for extreme cases of sleepiness. Examples of stimulant medication include:

  • Armodafinil
  • Methylphenidate
  • Amphetamines
  • Modafinil

How can stimulants help me fight excessive sleepiness?

Before going off on a stimulant-buying spree, you need to determine what is causing your excessive sleepiness. Medications are always the last resort. This means that you need to check first if your sleepiness is because of your sleeping habits. Maybe you’re sleeping too little each night? Or maybe you’re experiencing too much stress.

If you have exhausted all non-medical means, then maybe it’s about time you consider medical stimulants. This is especially important if your sleepiness is already affecting your work, school, or personal life.

Is it true that stimulants can help adults with ADHD?

Yes, it can help adults with ADHD sleep better. When you have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you’re more likely to experience increased sleep latency. You might also experience daytime somnolence and reduced REM sleep. If you think that your tossing and turning is bad enough, imagine how bad it’s going to be for someone who cannot stay still for a few minutes.

Central nervous stimulants like methylphenidate can help you get to sleep. Most adults with ADHD suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep-related problems can worsen daytime symptoms.

Can stimulants cause side effects?

Yes, stimulants can cause side effects. They are no different from medications that help you get to sleep. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Irritability
  • Hypertension
  • Tremor
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Back pains

These side effects differ from one medication to another. The physical condition and well-being of the person using the stimulant is also a huge factor. You may experience one or more of these side effects. It is normal to experience them, so they should not be a cause for concern. With that said, you need to inform your physician if the side effects worsen or if they are affecting your daily activities. Your physician might recommend another approach to your medical condition that won’t cause adverse effects.

When we talk about sleep disorders, we often think about not being able to sleep. However, sleep disorders also disrupt our daytime activities. When you spend the night before wide awake, chances are you’re sleepy the next day. It is normal to experience this once in a while. But if this is a daily problem then it can have a profound effect on your lifestyle.

Stimulants can help counter sleepiness during the day. They can provide you that extra boost that you need so you can go about your daily activities without falling asleep. However, it is important to note that you should use stimulants together with other sleep-management techniques. Healthy and sound sleeping habits should be practiced in conjunction with the use of stimulants. This way, you might not need to rely on stimulants to keep you awake. Well, maybe except for that cup of strong coffee in the morning.

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