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Many Drugs Cause Bad Dreams

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If you have ever been awakened by a frightening dream, you know the feeling of terror it can produce. Once you are fully awake, you may feel relieved that your nightmare wasn't real. On the other hand, the pounding heart and scary images may keep you awake for hours.

No one knows why some people have frequent bad dreams. Anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS) have all been blamed.

One factor that is often overlooked is medication. A surprising number of drugs can trigger nightmares. People susceptible to this side effect can lose sleep because of their prescriptions.

Unfortunately, this complication is not always mentioned. Doctors often think of bad dreams as relatively unimportant, because they are not life threatening. Pharmacists may also fail to mention this possible reaction when dispensing a new medicine. But for victims, drug-induced dreams can be a nightmare.

One reader said: "I was put on atenolol when my blood pressure went through the roof. All hell broke loose. It made caused horrible nightmares and insomnia."
Another reader reported: "My husband has Parkinson's disease and is taking levodopa. He often tells me stories that are so far fetched that I conclude he is telling me about his dreams. Yesterday he told me that he was on top of a very tall pole and could not get down."

According to someone else: "I took clonidine at night for several years to help with both blood pressure and hot flashes. The nightmares didn't start right away but after they did, they became progressively more frequent until they were occurring about once every week or so. I was almost afraid to go to bed anymore not knowing if I'd wake up in a panic from another nightmare. They stopped once I quit taking the drug."

Another reader had a reaction to Chantix: "I started Chantix after many unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking over the last year or so. I took the first pill in the evening and that night I had the most vivid, colorful, interactive dreams I could ever remember. When I got up the next morning I commented to my partner that this drug was great and quitting smoking will be fun and the dreams would be a great reward.

"By night three the dreams had turned into nightmares from which I awoke angry and agitated. I awoke the morning of the fourth day after another nightmare. My partner was snoring, which agitated me to the point where I thought a bullet would certainly solve this problem. The shock of such a thought, so far removed from my normal feelings, scared me.

Chantix is notorious for causing very bad dreams. Other medications that may trigger nightmares include antibiotics (such as Avelox, Biaxin, Cipro and Levaquin), antidepressants (like Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro and Paxil), beta blockers (atenolol, bisoprolol, labetalol, metoprolol and propranolol) and levodopa for Parkinson's, among others.

Nightmares are not necessarily a minor side effect. Although you should not stop a medicine suddenly, if bad dreams are keeping you awake please discuss this reaction with your doctor.

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I've taken Atacand for many years to lower my blood pressure. I've also experienced bad dreams for many years, but never thought to connect the two. I don't know if it is the Atacand, but I do wonder if anyone else has experienced nightmares while taking this drug.

Metaprolol for high blood pressure caused such nightmares, such vivid dreams and finally, sleepwalking! Talked to the doctor and I now take this same medication in the morning instead of at bedtime. That might help some people?

Hi Priscilla,
Your comment was thought provoking since I also have taken Atacand for many years. I do not have bad dreams from this drug. But I have had nightmares when I take cholesterol drugs. So I am refusing to take them at present. I was wondering if you are taking any cholesterol drugs, as well. And if that may be the real culprit, or something else. Good Luck! and Sweet Dreams to us all!

Prior to reading your March 27 column in the Raleigh News & Observer, I had been suffering from terrible nightmares for a couple of weeks. I would wake up crying hysterically and imagining horrible scenarios involving family and friends. I never thought to connect the recent nightmares with medication. However, I had just started a course of Zyrtec D to combat seasonal allergies. Since reading your column, I have discontinued the Zyrtec, and the nightmares have stopped! I did some research online and saw that nightmares is considered a "less severe" side-effect of taking Zyrtec. Who knew??

I would rather sneeze all day than suffer with nightmares. I am so thankful to read of this connection in your column and find such a simple solution! I honestly thought I should see a therapist!
Thank you!

I tried to quit Effexor cold turkey about a year ago. The nightmares were so real and vivid, it was scary. They almost always consist of being attacked by aliens, which seems to be the equivalent of my brain being attacked by the drug. I want to get off of it, so I've made an appt with my doctor to discuss it. I won't make the mistake of doing it myself again!

I have recently had to take Advil PM because I was in a tree climbing accident and broke my leg, causing me to have enough pain to were I can't sleep. I am not having dreams of falling, as I thought I would, but of evil American Indians. They take me hostage and try to restrain or skin me.

I also have dreams of Aliens from outer space that take me on board their ship and try to run a variety of tests on me. All of these dreams have only been happening for about a week, but that is how long I have been taking this medicine. I have considered that maybe I am worried that the doctors may hurt me when they replace my cast in a few months, or the saw they have to use.

The questions I need someone else's answer too is this: Are Nighttime Sleep-Aids linked to nightmares? And, Is it possible to do something to prevent any and all nightmares?

I take Hyzaar, Crestor, Norvasc and for my diabetes, cinnamon and brewer's yeast tablets. I have constant dreams, not always bad but just all night it seems like. Could any of these be the cause??

While taking antibiotics for a sinus infection have had heart pounding nightmares
each night. Interesting connection.

metoprol or toprol xl caused me to have vivid, horrifying nightmares, so bad that I would be screaming hysterically inside my head, trying to get myself to wake up, and it would take a LONG time for me to wake up. It got so I was afraid to go to sleep, like a horror movie. And when I woke up my blood pressure would typically be 160+ over 100+, when my normal was 130/90. I stopped the toprol and the vivid nightmares went away.

I work third shift, and have very strange sleep times. My cardiologist prescribed metoprol twice a day for my irregular heart beats (Sometimes as many as 16,000 in a 24 hour period!), 75 mg in the mornings before I go to bed after work, and 50 mg at night before I go to work. I too have some really strange and very vivid dreams. I have even hit my wife twice while asleep on this drug, BUT never once thought it was from the drug, but maybe from a late night dinner we shared on my nights off.
I plan on talking to my doctor when I see him this week for my check up.

My doctor prescribed me with Cyclobenzaprine 10mg and Naproxen 500mg, for my back pain. When I started taking these pills I noticed I was having some very horrific dreams. I figured maybe I was just stressed about finding out about my back. Well as the pain went away I stopped taking the pills and the dreams became less and less scary, and then stopped.

About 2 weeks later my back was bothering me so I took some pills and the whole thing started all over again. That's when I realized the pills were giving me nightmares. And I also noticed that as I stopped taking the pills my leg would jump in my sleep and wake me up. Needless to say I don't take either of these pills any longer. I never did see if it was one particular pill or the combination of the two.

You can add amoxicillin to the antibiotics list as well. My bad dreams started a day or two after starting this medication.

I have been having vivid dreams. I had been taking avapro(75MG), pravastatin(80mg), and metoprolol(50mg). After going into the hospital with a rapid heart beat I again mentioned the vivid dreams to my cardiologist. He took me off the metoprolol and put me on 40 mg of Coreg Cr. However, I continue to have vivid dreams. The doctor said that the Coreg Cr does not cause vivid dreams. What can it be? I also take the following: 3000 IU of vitamin D, 50 mg of selenium, Omega 3 fish oil(1360mg), a multi vitamin, baby aspirin, and PreserVision eye vitamin 2 times a day.

Because of failed back surgery, fibromyalgia and damaged spinal nerves from four spinal surgeries (14 surgeries in all) I have suffered severe disabling pain over the last nine years and have taken a whole gamut of meds causing horrible demonic nightmares.

I do not even watch any horror movies at all and was so confused for the longest as to why I was having the horrific terrifying nightmares. They were (are) worse than any sick demonic horror film that has been ever imagined. I, too, will wake up with my heart racing and have a hard time getting asleep. Meds like generic benadryl will cause it. Muscle relaxer will cause it. I only took two antidepressants, but they cause the nightmares. Other neuropathic pain killers will cause nightmares.

I was surprised that as soon as I would discontinue a certain Med, the nightmares would stop. This has been going on for nine long years. My docs are frustrated with me because I refuse the meds they won't to prescribe because I cannot emotionally endure the nightmares. A lot of dreams are like being in hell and tormented in darkness by demons. I am up tonight because I ended up taking two benadryls to get to sleep and dreamed that my husband and I each had evil twin dummies who were alive and making everyone I know be terrified of the evil control they had over everyone and there was no way to get away from them or what they were doing to people to haunt them and drive them out of their minds!

Believe me, I had 10 times rather have the pain than be tormented by the demonic nightmares! I wish I had kept a log of all the meds I have taken over the last 9years, because there are a lot that cause nightmares. As soon as I wake up from a nightmare, I start praying and asking god to help me forget the dream, as it is also terrifying to keep thinking about it... like it puts a curse on you. Thank god, he does give me peace and restore my mind. I have found that God's Word is the only healing medicine you can take with no bad side effects!

My doctors say I will have to live with this severe chronic pain the rest of my life, but I am not giving up on having a miraculous healing one day. (Oh, another Med I took after breast cancer was tamoxifen and it caused me to be so depressed that I was planning my funeral... and I had no reason on earth to be depressed! I cried all the time even with a wonderful husband and family who was giving me phenominal love and support. My oncologist almost cried when I told him what was happening. He immediately took me off it and gave me an alternate Med which did not give me nightmares or depression and I was OK on it for several years.)

After all I have gone through, I am very curious what ingredient in certain meds are causing the nightmares... and believe me, I even tremble to say the word nightmare, because that is an understatement to the horror I have experienced with prescription drugs!

The best option is to check either with your pharmacy and ask what the side effects are or look them up online. Also ask the pharmacist about drug interaction.

I was having vivid dreams each night that lasted a very long time, only to find out that besides having some drug allergies that caused nightmares, but I also had sleep apnea and a condition called REM rebound which means I never get past that first stage of dream sleep. A CPAP machine cured that. Ask your doc about possible sleep apnea as well. It is very common and effects your body and can sometimes be the cause of many illnesses. Word of caution, find out from your insurance provider what they cover when/if you have to do a sleep study or two. They are VERY pricey and you don't want to go into sticker shock so to speak if your insurance is lousy! I know I did!

I just wanna say that I know for sure its Metoprolol that causing horrible nightmares, I just started it four days ago....and had those dreams four days in a row.

Metopolol— I had a very bad reaction and didn't even know it until I happened to read a medical newsletter that said the Metopolol can cause a "foggy brain." That's exactly what was going on with me. I just wasn't thinking and functioning mentally as well as i used to before taking the drug. When I read about this side effect, I immediately went off the drug (my Dr. replaced it with another) and my mind came back to full clarity within a day or two after being off the drug.

I'm almost done a 14-day course of Levaquin for a sinus infection and I've had several anxiety dreams about my home being on fire or of weird, gremlin-like creatures or huge insects infesting my home. (Does NOT help that I had a bedbug problem over the summer. Resolved now, but still makes me antsy.) I also had a VERY distressing dream that someone killed my cat (who is like my kid to me). And the weird connecting factor in all of these dreams is that I'm really heavily pregnant in all of them. Never mind that I'm not pregnant in real life and there is no possibility that I am. I will be very happy when I am done with these antibiotics and I'll have my PCP note in my file that Levaquin gives me intensely weird dreams.

I have suffered very disturbing dreams most nights for about 6 years. I take Lisinopril and Tildiem LA, Metformin, Insulin, Aspirin, Trimethoprim and Colpermin. Any ideas which of these could be the culprit?

Sandy, we share 2 drugs that you mentioned. Lisinopril, and aspirin. I take low dose aspirin for my heart. So if others let you know what they have in common, maybe we can pin down what is causing the dreams we both get.

I have just started on Diazoxide for Hypoglycemia and for the past week I have had some very horrible dreams, I am not a dreamer and when I go back to sleep I go right back into that scary dream. I am so tired but scared to go to sleep, I was just wondering could this new medicine be causing these bad dreams. I don't take anything else except vitamins I have been taking for years.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: The prescribing information for this drug does not mention bad dreams, but it does describe anxiety and insomnia, which could be related to bad dreams.

Was prescribed naproxen for some bruised ribs and had the most violent nightmare of my life the first night I took them. Some of the material was almost worthy of David Lynch, worst part was even though I was slipping in and out and almost knew I was dreaming, the images were vivid and crisp and not fractional and nonlinear like typical bad dreams. Webmd reveals naproxen causes bad dreams and I will never touch them again.

I've been sleepwalking (one time it was violent)and having bad dreams for 2 years. It finally hit me that it all started about 2 months after I started Toprol XL!!!

I have the date I started taking it, and my wife and I agree on the first memorable episode.

I've been using Losartan for my Blood Pressure for 2 yrs now, But I always have taken it in the am, last night I remembered I didn't take it that morning so I took it at night and I had multiple nightmares one after another, it was horrible.

I have been on Amoxicillin for 3 days. I almost never have bad dreams. These past 3 days I have had nightmares from the Amoxicillin.

I had such a bad experience after being prescribed many drugs for bi-polar. I refuse to believe I am bi-polar. The meds I was put on did not work... in fact they were very detrimental to me and almost caused my demise. I had to be taken to the hospital on 4 occasions for toxicity to Lithium, prescribed by a psychiatrist. I had horrific, Satanic nightmares that lasted 5 hours and my blood pressure skyrocketed to 188/100. I thought my heart was coming out of my chest. I had to call for an ambulance and I could taste a metallic taste in my mouth and coming up my arms and legs toward my heart. I feel like a had an out of body experience and went to Hell. I cried out for God (my situation at the time was THAT bad and THAT frightening) for help and luckily I had taken 64oz of water at 5am that morning or I would have been dead of a lithium overdose.

I was taken to a Psych hosp bec. the doctors in the regular one did not know how to handle my situation. Having drank the water I began to pee all over the hosp. bed and they had to put me in diapers twice. I had no control. I believe that saved my life because lithium is is stored in the kidney's not the blood. The psychiatrist told me it was caused from all the meds they had experimented with me. I have had PTSD since and it took me over a year to get well.

I just have been striving to find out more about what actually happened to me and took place. It changed my entire life and I felt that God saved me from that horrifying situation. CAN ANYONE HELP ME FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. HAS THIS EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE ELSE? PLEASE DO TELL!!!!!

I been taking naproxen 500mg for my chronic venous in my legs and so far I have been having bad bad nightmares I just woke up from one n I can't fall back to sleep I was tryin to wake up from my night mare and I couldn't I was screaming my brother told me and he couldn't get me up I had the same night mare 6 times from these pills but I can't stop cuz I need them for pain.

Yep! I've been on amoxicillin for 6 days and 4 days in a row I've had bad, scary and bizarre dreams.

Yes, I have bad dreams from many meds, even melatonin, but at this point I really need something to help me sleep, before making a mistake at work! I give meds at facility! Any suggestions s?

Cymbalta has given me dreams which are not scary, but so detailed and convoluted that they stay with me all day. I have never dreamt like this before so it must be the meds. I feel as if I must dream all night. It's as if my brain doesn't rest while I sleep. However, my depression and anxiety was so crippling before I took this I feel wired dreams is a small price to pay. I would however love to know the scientific reason for this changed brain activity.

I take ambien at night to sleep and am also on a low dose of methadone. Neither of these together or separate have ever given me a problem (save for maybe gaining a few pounds due to late night munchies). Well a couple weeks ago I had a UTI and had to be put on antibiotics... I took them during the day as I was supposed to and the last one right before my ambien at night. I found I was having these weird episodes where I would sleep, have a nightmare, wake up slightly awake but almost as if I was still in the nightmare and in full on panic mode. It is terrifying. I stopped taking the antibiotic, this went away, but I never gave it another thought.

Well cut to last night and I haven't had any ambien in about a week and a half and I also had extensive dental work and got put on the same antibiotic... No problems with it... still taking my methadone as normal... not really sleeping but I chalked that up to the fact that I had all my upper teeth taken out. Well I get my ambien script last night, take it and my antibiotic and go to bed... two hours later and I'm thrashing around in a half asleep/half awake nightmare that's leaving me short of breath and absolutely freaking out. I couldn't collect my thoughts at all. I couldn't even figure out what was happening. This went on ALL night long. I know the antibiotic combined with this is causing it.

Tonight I'm going to take my ambien WITHOUT having had any antibiotics today and pray that this incident does not re-occur.

The worst part is there is barely any information on this subject... no answers as to why or how to prevent it anywhere when it's clearly something that's an issue.

Good luck to anyone else with the same problem.

I have had medication treatment for high blood pressure for a long time. I saw Metopropol on the list of drugs that can cause bad dreams/nightmares. I will follow up with my doctor to see if I can be taken off of it.

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