Table of Contents

Definition of Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), refers to sleep disturbances caused by the use of certain substances or medications. This disorder occurs when an individual experiences significant disruptions in their sleep patterns due to the effects of substances such as medications, drugs, alcohol, or toxins.

The key characteristics of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder include:

  • Sleep disturbances: The use of a substance or medication results in alterations in sleep patterns, including insomnia, excessive sleepiness, or disruptions in the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Causation: The sleep disturbances are directly linked to the physiological effects of the substance or medication used. These disturbances are not due to other sleep disorders or underlying medical conditions.
  • Significance: The sleep disturbances caused by the substance or medication result in significant distress or impairment in various areas of the individual’s life, such as social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • Resolution: Once the use of the substance or medication ceases or diminishes, the sleep disturbances typically resolve without further treatment.

It’s important to note that this disorder is distinct from other primary sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia disorder, sleep apnea) as it is specifically tied to the consumption or exposure to certain substances. Treatment often involves addressing the substance use or changing medications under the supervision of a healthcare professional to alleviate the sleep disturbances.

Substance Medication Induced Sleep Disorder 2

History of Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder has been recognized and documented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for several editions. The DSM is a standard classification of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). This disorder was formally categorized and named within the DSM-III-R (Third Edition, Revised) and has continued to be acknowledged in subsequent editions, including the DSM-IV, DSM-IV-TR (Text Revision), and DSM-5.

  • The DSM-III-R, published in 1987, introduced the concept of Substance-Induced Sleep Disorder, which encompassed sleep disturbances caused by various substances, including medications, drugs, or alcohol. It classified sleep disorders caused by substances as a separate category from primary sleep disorders, emphasizing that the sleep disturbances were directly attributed to the effects of these substances.
  • In subsequent revisions, such as DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR, the disorder was further refined and categorized under specific criteria. The DSM-IV-TR, for instance, delineated various subtypes of Substance-Induced Sleep Disorder based on the type of substance causing the sleep disturbances.
  • With the release of the DSM-5 in 2013, the terminology shifted to “Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder,” aligning the terminology with the recognition that not only substances of abuse but also various medications could induce sleep disturbances.

The history of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder within the DSM reflects an evolution in the understanding and classification of sleep disturbances caused by the use of substances or medications. Over time, there has been a refinement of criteria, recognition of different causative agents, and a clearer understanding of how these substances affect sleep patterns. This recognition within the DSM has helped guide clinicians in diagnosing and addressing sleep disturbances induced by substances or medications.

DSM-5 Criteria of Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

In the DSM-5, Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder is categorized under the broader classification of Sleep-Wake Disorders. It is defined by specific criteria that clinicians use to diagnose this condition. To meet the criteria for Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder, the following conditions must be present:

A. There is evidence from the individual’s history, physical examination, or laboratory findings of both of the following:

  • The sleep disturbance developed during or soon after substance intoxication or withdrawal or after exposure to a medication
  • The sleep disturbance is not better explained by a sleep disorder that is not substance/medication-induced. This exclusion is essential to differentiate substance/medication-induced sleep disturbances from primary sleep disorders that are not caused by substance use.

B. The sleep disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

C. The sleep disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of delirium.

D. The disturbance is not better explained by another sleep disorder (e.g., insomnia disorder, hypersomnolence disorder) or by another mental disorder (e.g., a mental disorder that is not substance/medication-induced).

E. Once the substance/medication is no longer active in the body or has been eliminated, the sleep disturbance persists for a substantial amount of time (usually about a month) beyond the usual duration of the substance’s effects.

It’s important to note that the diagnosis of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder requires careful consideration of the specific substance or medication involved, the timing of sleep disturbances concerning its use, and the persistence of sleep disturbances even after the substance has been cleared from the body.

Clinicians use these criteria outlined in the DSM-5 to make an accurate diagnosis of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder and to differentiate it from other sleep disorders or primary mental health conditions not caused by substance use.

Etiology of Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder is caused by the effects of various substances or medications on the sleep-wake cycle and overall sleep patterns. The etiology or underlying cause of this disorder lies in the impact of these substances on the central nervous system and neurotransmitter activity, leading to disruptions in normal sleep architecture.

Several substances or medications can contribute to the development of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder:


Substances like caffeine, nicotine, and certain medications prescribed for conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can disrupt sleep by promoting wakefulness or interfering with the ability to fall asleep.


Sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics (such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates) used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders may lead to disturbances in sleep patterns, including excessive sleepiness or disruptions in the sleep cycle.

Substances of abuse:

Alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and other illicit drugs can profoundly affect sleep. While some substances might initially induce drowsiness, they often disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to poor sleep quality, insomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Medications with stimulating effects:

Certain medications, such as antidepressants or medications used for specific medical conditions, can have stimulating effects that interfere with the ability to fall asleep or maintain restful sleep.

Withdrawal effects:

Sleep disturbances can also arise during the withdrawal phase after discontinuing certain substances or medications. This phase might involve rebound effects where the body struggles to regain normal sleep patterns after cessation of the substance.

The specific mechanisms through which these substances or medications affect sleep can vary widely. They might influence neurotransmitter systems, alter the balance of hormones involved in sleep regulation, or directly affect brain activity, leading to disturbances in sleep-wake cycles, insomnia, hypersomnia, or other sleep-related issues.

Understanding the impact of different substances or medications on sleep is crucial in diagnosing and treating Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder. Treatment often involves addressing the use of these substances, adjusting medications under medical supervision, and implementing behavioral or pharmacological interventions to restore healthy sleep patterns.

Theories related to Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Several theories attempt to explain how substances or medications induce sleep disturbances and contribute to Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder:

Neurotransmitter imbalance:

Many substances affect neurotransmitter systems in the brain, altering the balance of chemicals that regulate sleep and wakefulness. For instance, stimulants like caffeine or drugs such as amphetamines can increase the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to heightened arousal and interfering with sleep initiation.

Disruption of sleep architecture:

Substances can alter the various stages of sleep, affecting sleep architecture. For example, alcohol might initially induce drowsiness but disrupts the later stages of sleep, leading to frequent awakenings and reduced overall sleep quality. Similarly, some medications may suppress REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or interfere with deep sleep stages, impacting the restorative aspects of sleep.

Effects on circadian rhythms:

Substances and medications can influence the body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. Disruptions to this rhythm, caused by substances like caffeine or irregular medication use, can lead to difficulties in falling asleep or maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle.

Withdrawal effects:

Sleep disturbances can occur during withdrawal from certain substances, leading to rebound effects. When an individual stops using substances that affect sleep, the body may undergo periods of hyperarousal, causing insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns as it readjusts to functioning without the substance.

Interactions with sleep-regulating hormones:

Some substances or medications can interfere with hormones that regulate sleep, such as melatonin. For instance, certain medications or substances might affect the production or effectiveness of melatonin, which plays a crucial role in promoting sleep.

Psychological and behavioral factors:

Substance use disorders and the psychological effects of medications can contribute to stress, anxiety, or mood disturbances, all of which can adversely impact sleep quality and duration.

Understanding these theories helps clinicians identify the potential mechanisms through which specific substances or medications may be causing sleep disturbances. Addressing these underlying factors is essential in the diagnosis and treatment of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder, often involving a combination of behavioral interventions, medication adjustments, and addressing substance use or dependence under medical supervision.

Risk factors of Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Several factors can increase the risk of developing Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder:

Substance or medication use:

Regular consumption or misuse of substances like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, prescription medications (e.g., stimulants, sedatives, antidepressants), or illicit drugs can directly lead to disruptions in sleep patterns.

High doses or prolonged use:

Using substances or medications in high doses or for extended periods increases the likelihood of sleep disturbances. Chronic use or misuse of these substances amplifies their effects on the body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Individual susceptibility:

Some individuals may be more sensitive or prone to the sleep-disrupting effects of certain substances or medications due to genetic factors, underlying medical conditions, or differences in brain chemistry.

Withdrawal effects:

Sleep disturbances are common during the withdrawal phase when an individual stops using substances or discontinues medications that have been regularly consumed. These withdrawal effects can persist for a period as the body readjusts to the absence of the substance.

Polydrug use:

Using multiple substances simultaneously or in sequence can exacerbate sleep disturbances. Interaction effects between substances or medications may amplify their impact on sleep.

Underlying mental health conditions:

Coexisting mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders, can contribute to sleep disturbances. Medications used to manage these conditions might also affect sleep patterns.

Stress and lifestyle factors:

High levels of stress, irregular sleep schedules, poor sleep hygiene, and lifestyle factors (such as shift work or jet lag) can interact with the effects of substances or medications, intensifying sleep disruptions.

Medical conditions:

Certain medical conditions, such as chronic pain, respiratory disorders (e.g., sleep apnea), or neurological disorders, can co-occur with Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder, contributing to sleep disturbances exacerbated by substance use or medications.

Identifying these risk factors is essential in understanding an individual’s susceptibility to developing sleep disturbances due to substance or medication use. Addressing these factors can guide preventive measures, interventions, and treatment strategies aimed at managing Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder.

Treatment for Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Treatment for Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder primarily involves addressing the underlying cause—substance use or medication effects—while also focusing on improving sleep hygiene and implementing behavioral interventions. Here are some approaches used in managing this disorder:

Cessation or reduction of the substance or medication:

The primary step in treating Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder is discontinuing or reducing the use of the substance or adjusting the medication regimen under the guidance of a healthcare professional. This can help alleviate sleep disturbances caused by these substances.

Medical supervision and tapering off medications:

For individuals who are using medications that disrupt sleep, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider to discuss potential alternatives or strategies to gradually taper off the medication without causing withdrawal effects.

Behavioral interventions:

Implementing good sleep hygiene practices can significantly improve sleep quality. Techniques include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, limiting stimulants like caffeine and electronics before bedtime, and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for insomnia:

CBT-I is a structured, evidence-based therapy designed to improve sleep by addressing behavioral and cognitive factors that contribute to sleep disturbances. It can help manage insomnia caused by substance use or medication effects.

Addressing coexisting conditions:

Treating any coexisting mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders, is crucial. Managing these conditions can positively impact sleep quality.

Support groups or counseling:

Engaging in support groups or seeking counseling can provide valuable guidance and support during the process of reducing substance use or adjusting medications that affect sleep.

Medical evaluation and treatment:

If sleep disturbances persist or if there are underlying medical conditions contributing to the sleep disorder, a comprehensive medical evaluation may be necessary. Addressing any underlying medical issues can aid in improving sleep.


In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe short-term medications to assist with sleep difficulties during the adjustment period after discontinuing substances or medications. However, the use of medications to treat Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder is generally limited due to the potential for dependency or worsening sleep problems.

It’s crucial to tailor the treatment approach to the individual’s specific situation and address any underlying factors contributing to the sleep disturbances. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, including primary care physicians, sleep specialists, or mental health professionals, is essential for proper evaluation and management of Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder.

Therapies for Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Addressing Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder often involves therapeutic interventions aimed at improving sleep patterns, managing substance use or medication effects, and addressing any underlying issues contributing to the sleep disturbances. Therapies and approaches commonly utilized for managing this disorder include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I):

CBT-I is an evidence-based therapy that targets behavioral and cognitive factors contributing to sleep disturbances. It helps individuals develop healthier sleep habits, regulate sleep-wake cycles, and modify unhelpful thoughts and behaviors related to sleep.

Motivational Interviewing (MI):

MI is a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve ambivalence about changing their behaviors. It can be beneficial in addressing substance use disorders by enhancing motivation and commitment to reducing or ceasing substance use that affects sleep.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies:

Practices such as mindfulness meditation, which focus on present-moment awareness, can be helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, and improving sleep quality. Mindfulness-based interventions may aid in managing sleep disturbances caused by substance use or medication effects.

Sleep Hygiene Education:

Educating individuals about good sleep hygiene practices, including creating a conducive sleep environment, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding stimulants or activities that interfere with sleep, is an essential component of treatment.

Relaxation Techniques:

Techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, or guided imagery can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and facilitate better sleep.

Supportive Therapy:

Participating in support groups, individual counseling, or family therapy can offer emotional support, guidance, and a sense of community for individuals dealing with substance use disorders and sleep disturbances.

Medication Management:

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage underlying mental health conditions or to aid in the reduction of substance use. However, caution is exercised due to the potential for dependence or worsening of sleep disturbances with certain medications.

Integrated Treatment Programs:

Comprehensive treatment programs that address both substance use disorders and sleep disturbances simultaneously can be highly effective. These programs often include a combination of therapies, medical management, and support systems tailored to the individual’s needs.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of therapies may vary depending on individual circumstances, the specific substances or medications involved, and the presence of coexisting conditions. Tailoring treatment approaches to address the unique needs and challenges of each individual is essential in effectively managing Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals experienced in treating both sleep disorders and substance use issues is recommended for comprehensive and personalized care.

Preventions of Substance/Medication Induced Sleep Disorder

Preventing Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder involves strategies aimed at reducing the risk of sleep disturbances caused by substances or medications. Here are some preventive measures:

Education and Awareness:

Educate individuals about the potential impact of substances or medications on sleep. Encourage awareness of how substances like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, or certain medications can disrupt normal sleep patterns.

Limit Substance Use:

Encourage moderation or avoidance of substances known to interfere with sleep, such as caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, particularly close to bedtime.

Use Medications Responsibly:

Take medications as prescribed by healthcare professionals, following recommended doses and guidelines. Discuss potential sleep-related side effects with a doctor before starting any new medication.

Healthy Sleep Hygiene:

Promote good sleep practices, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Monitor and Manage Stress:

Stress can exacerbate sleep disturbances. Encourage stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or engaging in relaxing activities to reduce stress levels.

Seek Professional Help:

If sleep disturbances arise due to medication side effects or substance use, seek guidance from healthcare professionals. Discuss any sleep-related concerns with a doctor or mental health professional to address them early on.

Regular Exercise:

Encourage regular physical activity, as exercise can promote better sleep quality. However, avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it may have a stimulating effect.

Avoiding Polydrug Use:

Refrain from using multiple substances simultaneously, as interactions between different substances can intensify their effects on sleep.

Treatment of Underlying Conditions:

Seek appropriate treatment for underlying medical or mental health conditions that may contribute to sleep disturbances. Managing these conditions effectively can help improve sleep.

Safe Medication Use:

Be cautious with over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, or alternative remedies that may affect sleep. Consult healthcare providers before using these substances, especially if they are intended to aid sleep.

Routine Check-ups:

Regularly review medications with healthcare providers to assess their impact on sleep and overall health. Periodic assessments can help identify and manage potential sleep-related side effects.

By implementing these preventive measures, individuals can reduce the risk of developing Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder and promote healthier sleep habits while minimizing the impact of substances or medications on their sleep patterns.

author avatar