Posted on Saturday, April 1st, 2023 at 6:00 am    

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which interruptions in breathing occur while you sleep. There are two primary types of sleep apnea. A narrowing airway in the throat area causes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) during sleep. In central sleep apnea (CSA), breathing disruptions are due to a communication breakdown between the brain and the muscles involved in breathing. A third type of sleep apnea combines OSA and CDA, and it’s less common.

Several different factors can increase a person’s risk of developing sleep apnea. Certain types of over-the-counter and prescription medications can worsen sleep apnea or trigger sleep apnea episodes. Some risk factors include family history, weight, smoking, and medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure. However, though medications could increase the possibility that sleep apnea can occur, they cannot cause sleep apnea. 

Can Over-the-Counter Medications Make Sleep Apnea Worse?

Yes. Some common over-the-counter (OTC) medications can worsen untreated sleep apnea or increase the chance of developing sleep apnea in individuals already at risk. These OTC medications include antihistamines used to treat allergy symptoms. Common brand-name antihistamines include Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec. 

Can Prescription Medications Make Sleep Apnea Worse?

Yes, some classes of prescription medications can worsen sleep apnea. The following classifications of drugs can have an effect on a person’s sleep apnea:

Benzodiazepines slow activity in your brain and nervous system. They are commonly prescribed to relieve anxiety and muscle spasms and to treat seizures and insomnia. Common brand names include Valium®, Xanax®, Ativan®, and Klonopin®.

Opiates (sometimes called opioids or narcotics) treat pain. Opiates are sold under brand names such as OxyContin®, Percocet®, and Vicodin®. Generic names for more common opiates include hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine.

Barbiturates affect the central nervous system and have historically been used as hypnotics, sedatives, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants. This class of medications has been around for over a century, but their use is less frequent today because newer drugs have fewer side effects. However, a select number of barbiturates are in use today for some forms of insomnia and epilepsy and to induce a coma to help relieve intracranial pressure. Phenobarbital is probably the most well-known barbiturate, and familiar brand names include Luminal Sodium®, Solfoton®, and Tedral®. 

Sleep Aids and Sleep Apnea

Your sleep apnea could be worsened by taking prescription medications or OTC sleep aids such as melatonin. Drug interactions can cause a drug to be more or less effective than intended, cause side effects, or change how one or both drugs work. You should always check with your doctor before taking any sleep aids to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions. If you or a family member worries you may have sleep apnea, the good news is that treatment options are available to help. 

Get a Better Night’s Sleep with Silent Night Therapy

Our experienced New York sleep apnea specialists at Silent Night Therapy are experts in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and other sleep-related disorders. If you’re having trouble sleeping or want to discuss alternative treatments for your sleep apnea, we’re ready to help. Call us today at 631-983-2463 to schedule a free consultation.