15 Medications That May Cause Nightmares and Bad Dreams

Prescription Drugs

15 Medications That May Cause Nightmares and Bad Dreams

Insomnia
Jennifer Hadley
By Jennifer Hadley
Feb 12, 2018 - Updated Jun 04, 2021
Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
Medically Reviewed ByCarina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
illustration of a woman lying in bed who woke up due to a nightmare

Side effects of medications have the potential to affect each individual a bit differently. Ranging from mildly annoying such as dry mouth to severe and potentially dangerous, such as seizures, all medications come with some risk of side effects.

One of the more unusual side effects that medications can produce includes nightmares or intensely bad or vivid dreams. Here’s a look at various medications that may cause nightmares and bad dreams.

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What medications cause nightmares?

Medications belonging to a variety of classes of drugs may cause nightmares and bad dreams. These medications may be prescribed to treat common conditions including hypertension or depression, and medications used to treat less common conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.

Why do some medications cause nightmares?

It is not understood exactly why some medications cause some individuals to have nightmares or vivid dreams. Some medications which may cause bad dreams are thought to do so because they act on chemicals in the brain.

What To Do If You’re Prescribed Medication that Causes Nightmares

If you’re prescribed medication that causes nightmares, it may be because your health care provider has judged the potential benefits to outweigh the risks of side effects. Side effects do not occur in all individuals who take the medication. Many side effects occur very rarely. But if you have questions or fears about medications that cause nightmares, share your concerns with your health care provider. Do not stop taking your medication as prescribed until you speak with your health care provider.

Cholesterol Medications (Statins) That May Cause Nightmares

Statins are drugs that work to treat high cholesterol, by blocking a substance your body requires in order to make cholesterol. Although rare, some statins have been known to cause nightmares or vivid dreams.

Medication Lowest Price for Common Dosages*
Amantadine $22.66
Atenolol (generic for Tenormin) $4.00
Atorvastatin (generic for Lipitor) $8.38
Carbidopa/levodopa (generic for Sinemet) $3.14
Citalopram (generic for Celexa) $4.00
Diphenhydramine (generic for Diphen) $16.01
Fluoxetine $4.00
Metoprolol tartrate (generic for Lopressor) $3.94
Paroxetine (generic for Brisdelle) $56.21
Pravastatin (generic for Pravachol) $9.65
Prednisone $3.34
Propranolol (generic for Hemangeol) $3.03
Sertraline (generic for Zoloft) $6.90
Simvastatin (generic for Zocor) $4.95
Zocor $142.85
Zolpidem Tartrate (generic for Ambien) $7.40

Zocor (Simvastatin)

Combined with a proper diet, the brand drug Zocor (simvastatin) is used to help lower your bad cholesterol and fats, while increasing your good cholesterol. This helps to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Some individuals have reported nightmares, vivid dreams, and night terrors as a side effect of Zocor.

Pravastatin (Pravachol)

The generic for Pravachol is pravastatin, which is prescribed to treat elevated levels of LDL cholesterol along with lowering triglycerides in the blood. Belonging to the class of drugs known as statins, pravastatin has been reported to cause nightmares in some patients using it.

Atorvastatin (Lipitor)

Lipitor and its generic drug, atorvastatin help to reduce the amount of cholesterol made by the liver. The reduction in bad cholesterol can also help to prevent strokes and heart attacks. However, some people have reported bad or vivid dreams as a side effect of atorvastatin.

Sleep Medications That May Cause Nightmares

Prescription sleep medications, along with over-the-counter sleep aids and even antihistamine allergy medicines can cause nightmares or bad dreams. Used to treat insomnia, hay fever, or allergies, these medications can lead to unusual or vivid dreams.

Zolpidem (Ambien)

Ambien and its generic, zolpidem tartrate, can produce myriad side effects including bad dreams and sleepwalking. You must use the medication only as prescribed, as Ambien belongs to a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. If you experience severe, or frightening side effects, contact your health care provider immediately.

Diphenhydramine (Diphen)

Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine, which helps to relieve symptoms of allergies, hay fever, and motion sickness. A possible side effect of diphenhydramine may be vivid dreams or nightmares.

Blood Pressure Medications (Beta Blockers) That May Cause Nightmares

Beta-blockers are a class of drugs used to treat hypertension, commonly called high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a chronic condition that can lead to heart disease. Fortunately, many medications are available to manage the condition. Unfortunately for some, beta-blockers are medications that may cause nightmares.

Metoprolol (Lopressor)

Metoprolol tartrate, the generic for Lopressor, helps to block the actions of some chemicals in the body, including epinephrine, which affects the blood vessels and heart. This reduces stress on the heart caused by high blood pressure.

Propranolol (Inderal)

Propranolol, the generic drug for the beta-blocker brand name drug Inderal, is used to help lower high blood pressure, to prevent kidney problems along with reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. It may cause unusual or bad dreams.

Atenolol (Tenormin)

Atenolol is used to treat hypertension and may be used in conjunction with other medications. It may cause bad dreams or nightmares.

Antidepressants (SSRIs) that Cause That May Cause Nightmares

Antidepressant medications belonging to the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are known to cause nightmares or bad dreams for some individuals who take them. This is because these medications, which are used to treat depression, affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain.

Paroxetine (Paxil)

Paxil and its generic paroxetine are SSRI medications, which have been reported to cause nightmares, bad dreams, or unusual dreams. It is used to treat depression, panic attacks, and other mental health conditions.

Sertraline (Zoloft)

The generic for Zoloft is sertraline, which is an SSRI used to treat depression, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It may cause nightmares or bad dreams for some individuals who take it.

Fluoxetine (Prozac)

The generic for Prozac is the SSRI medication drug fluoxetine. It has been reported to cause nightmares in some patients who take it for depression, panic attacks, and OCD.

Citalopram (Celexa)

Citalopram is the generic for Celexa, an antidepressant medication. It may be used to treat panic disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and other mental health conditions. It has reported side effects which include dream disorder.

Parkinson’s Disease Medications That May Vivid Dreams

The nervous system disorder that primarily affects the part of the brain responsible for balance and movement is called Parkinson’s Disease. It is a progressive disease, with symptoms such as tremors that worsen over time. Medications used to treat Parkinson’s Disease may produce side effects such as unusual or bad dreams.

Amantadine (Gocovri)

Amantadine is used to improve range of movement, and the ability to exercise in individuals who have Parkinson’s Disease. It is believed to work by restoring the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Dream disorder has been a reported side effect of amantadine.

Carbidopa/Levodopa (Sinemet)

The combination drug carbidopa/levodopa which is the generic for Sinemet is used to treat Parkinson’s Disease by producing additional dopamine in the brain, to help control movement. This medication has been reported to cause unusual dreams amongst other side effects.

Steroids That May Cause Nightmares

Medications belonging to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids are frequently referred to as steroids. These anti-inflammatory medications are used to treat dozens of immune-response conditions ranging from arthritis to asthma, to spinal conditions and sports injuries. Steroids are thought to cause unusual dreams due to the steroid hormone’s impact on the brain.

Prednisone (Deltasone)

Prednisone is a commonly prescribed corticosteroid that may be prescribed for breathing disorders, blood disorders, skin disease, eye problems, and cancer. It is also used as an anti-rejection medication in those who have received an organ transplant. Prednisone may cause unusual dreams.

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Always Talk to Your Health Care Provider About Side Effects

If you notice any bothersome side effects from medication, speak to your health care provider. There are frequently alternatives they may be able to recommend, to reduce disruptive, or uncomfortable side effects such as nightmares.

Amantadine: 100mg / 30 tablets
Atenolol: 25mg / 30 tablets
Atorvastatin: 40mg / 30 tablets
Cabidopa/levodopa: 25mg-100mg / 30 tablets
Citalopram: 20mg / 30 capsules
Diphenhydramine: 50mg/ml / 25 vials
Fluoxetine: 20mg / 30 capsules
Metoprolol tartrate: 25mg / 30 tablets
Paroxetine: 7.5mg / 30 capsules
Pravastatin: 40mg / 30 tablets
Prednisone: 20mg / 30 tablets
Propranolol: 10mg / 30 tablets
Sertraline: 100mg / 30 tablets
Simvastatin: 10mg / 30 tablets
Zocor: 10mg / 30 tablets
Zolpidem Tartrate: 10mg / 30 tablets

*Lowest online price at national pharmacy chains as of 6/04/2021. Prices vary by location and pharmacy, see RxSaver.com for actual pricing in your area.

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley

Jen Hadley is a freelance writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, who writes extensively about the medical, legal, health care, and consumer products industries. Jen is a regular contributor to RxSaver.

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS., is a pharmacist who earned her PharmD from St. John’s University in Queens, NY. She maintains an active practice, serving as a Board-Certified Pediatric Pharmacotherapy Specialist at a large metropolitan teaching hospital in New York City. Carina has also published in pharmacy journals and works as a consultant reviewing medical articles for publication.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

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