woman screaming from a nightmare

We are all encouraged to get a good night’s sleep. That’s because scientists have found that restful sleep is important for brain function, cardiovascular health and diabetes management.

Nothing interferes with restful sleep like a terrifying nightmare. When someone is chasing you or trying to do you severe harm in a dream, it is hard to wake up refreshed.

Health professionals understand that trauma can leave lasting scars that manifest themselves in recurrent bad dreams. Sometimes counseling can help the unconscious mind deal with such suffering.

What therapy cannot help, however, are drug-induced nightmares. A surprising number of medications can cause really bad dreams.

It is not a side effect that is often mentioned when a prescription is written or filled, so it can be difficult to detect a medication causing nightmares. Nevertheless, this adverse drug reaction can cause a great deal of distress.

Antibiotic Medication Causing Nightmares

One reader related this story:

“I took levofloxacin (Levaquin) for a prostate infection. About two weeks after I started taking it I began to suffer from extreme anxiety and horrific nightmares. I thought I was losing my mind. It never occurred to me that the medication could have been the culprit; my doctor even said that it wasn’t the Levaquin. Searching the Internet proved I was not alone. My time in hell lasted for months.”

Others have reported bad nightmares with this class of antiobiotics (quinolones like levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin) and the official prescribing information warns about insomnia and nightmares.

Beta Blockers and Bad Dreams

Beta blocker heart medicines like metoprolol and propranolol have also been linked to insomnia and ugly dreams:

“Years ago I was started on propranolol to maintain a regular heartbeat. I have had vivid and unpleasant dreams since being on this drug, and occasional really bad nightmares.”

Stop-Smoking Drug Causing Nightmares

The prescribing information for the stop-smoking drug varenicline (Chantix) mentions, “vivid, unusual, strange or abnormal dreams.”

Readers have shared stories like this:

“I started Chantix after many unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking. By night three the vivid 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, which is so far removed from the way I normally feel, scared me.”

Scary Dreams on Statin Drugs

Other people have described sleep problems with cholesterol-lowering drugs:

“My husband takes pravastatin. He has been having nightmares at least three to four times a week. It is getting so bad that I cannot sleep. He has kicked me and hit me in the head. He told me he was fighting a monster.”

There is nothing in the prescribing information for pravastatin (Pravachol) about nightmares, but a related statin medicine, atorvastatin (Lipitor), does carry such a warning.

Even antidepressants such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor) can cause nightmares.

It is time for prescribers and pharmacists to alert their patients to this side effect. Since sleep is important to good health, when drugs cause terrifying dreams that wake people, alternate treatments should be considered.

If you have found your medication causing nightmares, you can share your story below.

 

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  1. S
    Sterling, Colorado
    Reply

    I have found that I cannot tolerate the statin drugs for the same reasons…nightmares…have tried Mevacor, Lipitor, Atorvastatin…all the same.

  2. Betty
    Zwolle, LA
    Reply

    I’ve been having terrible nightmares. I’ve kicked my husband, pulled his hair. I’ve sworn in my sleep. Feels like somebody is trying to harm me. I sat straight up in bed on my knees and hit the headboard so hard that I caused cuts to my knuckles and bad bruising. I’ve been hollering in my sleep. Night before last I bit myself so hard on the arm that it left bad bruising. My family and I are getting very concerned. I just left the generic for Lipitor off, and I have had a restful night. Going to talk to my Dr about an alternative medicine. Thank you.

  3. yvonne
    98662
    Reply

    I started taking Doxycycline Hyclate for a sinus infection. 4 days later I woke with my roommate telling me I was doing a blood curdling scream. I just remember a black shadow coming for me in my bedroom. That’s all I remember. Then I felt nauseous and started shaking uncontrollably. I could barely walk or talk. My friend took me to the ER, and the Dr there diagnosed me with night terrors and told me I might have had a reaction to the med and it would be ok if I quit it. The next day I contacted my Dr., and she felt it was a panic attack, as I do have those (but never with the extreme shaking). She also said Doxycyline doesn’t cause that symptom. I am not going to finish them, as I believe it did cause that. I know how to work thru a panic attack. This was not like a panic attack I have ever had.

  4. alan s
    malvern
    Reply

    I have nightmares everý night since taken pravastatin

  5. Margie
    Savannah
    Reply

    I have been having nightmares of waking up screaming, seeing hallucinations of someone standing over me. After googling, I found that I am taking two of the medications that are mentioned. Atorvastatin and Metoprolol. I feel that it is the latter, since I started taking it about the time that they started. Believe me, these dreams, are terrifying!!

  6. Becci
    Oregon
    Reply

    I was having mental cloudiness & depression using atorvastatin (for 4-5 months) & was experiencing word loss. I am now trying out CoQ10. All my other medications are unchanged. About 3-4 days after starting CoQ10, I began experiencing horrific nightmares every night. I’ve been chased by a madman with a red chainsaw hollering “look out for your clothes, USA!” I’ve had monster trucks mounted on 30-foot scissor lifts hunting me down. I even dreamed my ex rescued me from being dragged underwater by a tangle of slimy eels. The dreams are just off the charts. I wake up sweat-drenched & my heart beating out of my chest. Has anyone else experienced nightmares using CoQ10?

  7. Lora
    Fulton, KY
    Reply

    I feel compelled to share this after having just through one of the most terrifying nights of my life. I am a 5′ w”, 117 lb. Female, age 71. I’m diabetic, have high cholesterol, loss of digestive motility and osteoporosis. I have spent my entire life on a farm and at a public pressure cooker job. I’ve been a workaholic everyday of my life. Most of my health issues are genetic. Father was diabetic and died from a massive heart attack and both brothers are diabetic and have had open heart surgery. The loss of motility was the result of 3 months of Augmentin for a severe sinus infection. Almost twenty years ago doctors began prescribing various stations in an attempt to lower my cholesterol. Each one caused such severe muscle cramps that I got to a point where I could no longer walk uphill. Some even caused torticollis and chest spasms so severe that they slammed me back in a chair and I couldn’t move. I stopped taking them and, of course, my cholesterol soared. As a last resort, the cardiologist put me on Prevastatin. Within two weeks the muscle cramps started. They evolved into torticollis again and began to involve every muscle in my body. I stopped taking the Prevastatin and within three days the problem began clearing up. The cardiologist told me to start taking a double dose every other day, along with CoQ10 everyday. It was either that or die from a massive heart attack. Well, that worked, as far as the muscle cramps were concerned but something worse started happening. I began having nagging headaches and visual disturbances wherein I saw layers of things, I.e. when looking toward a tree line I saw another tree line on top of that one or when looking toward a light in the distance I saw three lights stacked on top of each other. That wasn’t the worse, however. When almost asleep at night I would be suddenly jolted awake and could not go back to sleep for hours. If I didn’t get up I would begin seeing a never-ending series of pictures, all unrelated, flash through my mind like a film clip rolling continuously. It was exhausting because in order to stop it I had to get up and sit in a chair and read for hours. That was bad enough but now I’ve started having the most horrible, terrifying nightmares imaginable. The worst one yet came last night after I’d been asleep for about two hours. It went on endlessly and was so horrifying and so vivid that I awakened drenched in sweat with my heart pounding like a sledgehammer. I got up and sat in a chair the rest of the night. I can recall every minute, vivid detail of that dream. I don’t drink; have never had a drink in my life and have never used drugs of any kind. It has to be the Prevastatin. I arrived at this forum seeking answers and wanted to share my story in the event it might help someone else understand what statin drugs can do to the human mind and body. What is my next step? I don’t have the answer to that. I just know I can’t continue in this manner.

  8. Joel
    New York City
    Reply

    I think I’m obligated to say that I also have bad dreams due to the atorvastatin. They were bad enough that I wanted to quit (I did for a while) by my doctor warned me that I am at high risk by not taking it and basically implied that I would have to deal with the dreams. Not always nightmares – strange and sad lately. But yes, the med gives me bad dreams

  9. Ann M
    Charleston SC
    Reply

    I was prescribed a short term dosage of 7.5 mg meloxicam (Mobic) daily for back spasms and severe osteoarthritis of spine on several occasions over the past 3 years . Each time I was taking that medication, I had vivid dreams…usually very convoluted and disturbing, sometimes enough to awaken me with the belief that what happened in the dream was actually real. Since most of the time I don’t dream or remember dreams, there certainly seems to be a correlation with taking this particular medication.

  10. Ernie
    Belfast
    Reply

    I have been taking Atorvastatin as part of my Diabetes2 treatment for a long time and have a lot of sleep disturbance wking 2-3 times per night with perisitant bad dreams. I have reduced my metformin dosage by 50% but this has had no effect on the dreams. Should I stop the Atorvastatin or is there an alternative drug?

  11. Anonymous
    Florida
    Reply

    I was prescribed Atorvastatin 8 years ago to lower hereditary high cholesterol. I began having night terrors every few weeks. The vivid dreams were always of someone attacking me in my bedroom. I would wake up screaming and a few times even struck my husband.

    After several years the night terrors became more frequent and more vivid. Finally last year I was having them almost every night. I told my Doctor and he attributed them to stress, even though I mentioned they started after I started taking the Atorvastatin. While having an acupuncture treatment for low back pain, I mentioned the night terrors during my intake session. The Acupuncturist, who was also an MD, noticed the Atorvastatin in my chart and told me that nightmares and night terrors are a side effect of statin drugs.

    He advised me to try weaning off the statin. I did over several months and as soon as I started reducing the statin, the frequency of the night terrors decreased, and once I stopped the drug, they disappeared altogether. I would rather take my chance with heart disease then go through that experience again. Wish I had found this forum sooner, they definitely do not mention this side effect in any of the drug literature.

  12. Albert
    California
    Reply

    I have a circadian rhythm disorder called Non-24 Hour Sleep Wake Syndrome resulting in odd sleep hours. On the really bad weeks I take over-the-counter sleeping pills. I’ve been having terrible nightmares on those nights and end up with no rest because I keep waking up over and over again from the nightmares. I’d guess at least ten times per night.

    I finally had to research this topic after a particularly scary dream this week. I jumped out of bed in a defensive fighting stance with my heart racing and drenched in sweat. That’s it – no more sleeping pills. I’d rather go to work with no sleep than live through that in the nights!

  13. Stacey
    Mass
    Reply

    WOW! I’m so glad I read these posts! So I’m not losing my mind after all! If the bad statin induced dreams weren’t bad enough, I am now suffering from depression after being on Lipitor for 3 months. Why on earth aren’t these terrible side effects not listed on the pamphlet that comes with the pills?? It’s downright dangerous. Oh – I know why – because these drugs are one of the biggest money-makers for big pharm.

  14. Alan
    MI
    Reply

    I started taking so many different types of medicine after my heart attack this past July. Now it seems I have nightmares every night. I discovered that Lipotor had this side effect now I am concerned, and also my other heart meds may add to this problem.

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