Ask The Pharmacist: 7 common but strange reasons for insomnia

Suzy Cohen

I’m cranky if I don’t sleep, are you? There’s more violence associated with people who have insomnia, which doesn’t come as any surprise to me.

The start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in March is always associated with a small spike in heart attacks, according to two different studies from the American Journal of Cardiology (2013) and the New England Journal of Medicine (2008).
Research published in New England Journal of Medicine shows an increase in car accidents in those first few days after the time change. Interestingly, a 2015 study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics estimates a seven percent decrease in robberies after DST goes into effect, saving $59 million dollars in social costs. Fascinating that the burglars are too tired to rob people if they lose sleep.

Ask The Pharmacist

This research is just so cool and it got me thinking about the reasons people don’t sleep. Here are some other reasons you don’t get normal shut-eye. These are seven common or unexpected causes for insomnia.

1. Taking thyroid medication at night

It should be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach because that’s when you usually produce it. When you pump out thyroid hormones (or take a pill) you naturally feel more energized and refreshed so take the medicine first thing in the morning to mimic your own body’s rhythm.

2. Methylation

This is a chemical pathway in your body that produces and breaks down neurotransmitters such as epinephrine (which is stimulating) and melatonin (which causes sleep). If your methylation pathway is cramped, it could trigger insomnia as well as seizures, agitation, combativeness, panic attacks and other ‘stimulating’ issues.

3. Quinolinic acid

This is a neurotoxin that is made in our brains and we can produce too much of it for a variety of reasons. Ironically, you can do it to yourself by taking certain sleep supplements like tryptophan. Too much quinolinic acid contributes to insomnia, depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

4. Fluoride

Drinking tap water or taking certain fluoride-containing antidepressants, medications or vitamins can harm your pineal gland. That’s bad because your pineal gland makes melatonin, your main sleep hormone. If you think fluoride is impacting your melatonin levels, which wane as you age, think about a supplement.

5. Prescription medications

Stimulating pharmaceuticals could keep you tossing all night. Among the worst offenders are albuterol, steroid, modafinil, metoclopramide, antidepressants, pseudoephedrine, ciprofloxacin and others.

6. Chronic pain

Only 36 percent of chronic pain sufferers get regular good sleep, compared to 65 percent of people without pain, according to a 2015 Sleep in America poll conducted by The National Sleep Foundation.

7. Allergies

Your environment matters. Itchy eyes, sinus congestion and frequent sneezing from dust or pollen allergies can keep you awake. To improve sleep, keep your bedding and pillows as allergen-free as possible. Get a clean new bed and buy a zippered bed-bug mattress cover immediately. Consider changing from a down comforter to an organic cotton blanket.

Close the windows if pollen count is high. Shower before bed. Remember to change daytime clothes before hopping into bed and regularly change sheets and pillowcases. Clean your fan blades of accumulated dust.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit