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Still Tired After A Night Of ‘Rest’? Gabapentin May Help Improve Your Sleep Quality

Gabapentin is a prescription medication that’s been shown to mitigate insomnia. Here, we answer important questions about this sleep aid to understand how it might help you get more restorative sleep.

It’s the middle of the afternoon on a workday. Sitting at your desk, you recognize the familiar onset of your afternoon slump start to settle in.

It’s a familiar feeling for you.

Your eyes feel weak and you struggle to stay focused on what’s in front of you. Your muscles start to feel heavy and you have a hard time sitting up straight. You’re literally slumping into your mid-day slump. And for goodness sake, you can’t stop yawning for the life of you.

You fit in a full eight hours of sleep last night - so what gives?

Dips in daytime energy could come from high stress levels, eating poorly, or not drinking enough water. It could also just be your natural circadian rhythm kicking in for its afternoon drop.

In all fairness, these energy dips are totally normal; however, they’ll feel less intense if you’re getting proper sleep.

But proper sleep means more than just getting enough sleep- it also means getting enough quality sleep.

If you find that your sleep is often interrupted (ie: you wake up throughout the night), your quality of sleep might suffer. And this is a form of insomnia.

When you’ve tried everything you can think of, from melatonin to a better mattress, and still aren’t getting the rest you need, it may be time to speak with your doctor about a prescription sleep aid.

Gabapentin is one prescription they may recommend. We’ll go over everything you need to know about this option and how it affects insomnia.

01

What’s Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a medication that’s often prescribed by doctors for quite a few different purposes.

Primarily, it’s known as an anticonvulsant, a medication that helps prevent or stop seizures. It also eases nerve pain, often after shingles which causes painful rashes. It’s been approved by the FDA for both of these uses.

Doctors also turn to Gabapentin to help with neurological conditions like nerve damage caused by diabetes, migraines, and restless leg syndrome. More recently, it’s been prescribed for anxiety, hot flashes, and even teeth grinding.

Last but not least, studies have shown that Gabapentin can effectively treat insomnia.

Gabapentin is not a controlled substance.

02

How Does Gabapentin Work?

More research is needed to fully understand how Gabapentin works to help with all of the above.

During seizures, it’s believed Gabapentin calms down nerve activity which can reduce seizure intensity or prevent them altogether.

Additionally, studies have shown that the medication alters electrical activity in your brain producing a calming effect.

And that calming effect is what’s believed to make Gabapentin helpful with insomnia. Research shows those taking Gabapentin experience fewer wake-ups or less interrupted sleep. They also experience better deep sleep, which is important for brain function.

Deep sleep is an essential part of the sleep cycle. In fact, it’s believed to be the most restorative stage. It’s what you need to feel rested when you wake up in the morning.

In deep sleep, your body is incredibly still and activity in your brain slows. It’s very difficult to wake someone who is in this state.

Although it may not seem like a lot is happening when someone is in the throes of a deep sleep, there are actually some very important things in the works.

Deep sleep improves your memory, both short and long term. Your cells get regenerated and your tissues are repaired. This is also where your immune system is strengthened.

In summary:

Deep sleep is super important. And if you’re not getting enough of it, your mind and body will pay for it.

03

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay In Your System?

Gabapentin has a half-life of 5-7 hours.

This simply means that most people will metabolize the medication to half of its original concentration after five hours.

Gabapentin is actually known for leaving the body relatively quickly. Keep in mind this does vary person-to-person. But for most people, the medication will be completely out of your system in 48 hours.

However, the effects of the medication, including the urge to fall asleep, will have worn off well before then.

Because Gabapentin improves your ability to stay asleep, you should also take it when you have 7-8 hours to sleep. Only take Gabapentin before bed. Never use this medication if you won’t be able to go to bed right away and stay asleep for at least 7 hours.

Also, you should never operate a vehicle or other heavy machinery after taking Gabapentin.

04

What Dosage Of Gabapentin Do You Need?

Just as with most other medications, there are several different personal factors that play a role in determining how much you need. And you’ll need to work with your doctor to find the right dosage for you.

Most often Gabapentin is prescribed between 100-400 mg to be taken once a day at bedtime. Your doctor will likely start you at a low dose and may increase the dosage if needed.

Be sure to take Gabapentin exactly as it’s been prescribed to you. Do not take more or less than your prescription without first consulting with your doctor.

Your doctor may also recommend sleep coaching to improve sleep hygiene for long-term improvement.

These practices might include:

  • Limiting screen use close to bedtime
  • Easy stretch sessions or foam rolling
  • Meditating
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Listening to music
  • Having a light snack

05

What Are Gabapentin’s Side Effects?

Some people do experience side effects when taking Gabapentin. The most commonly reported include:

  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling spacey

These side effects may decrease after a couple of weeks or after an adjustment to the dosage.

Other side effects may include:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Viral infections
  • Tremors
  • Double vision
  • Fever
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Jerky movements
  • Changes to mood

Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list of side effects. If you experience these or any other unusual side effects, it’s important to reach out to your doctor right away.

It should also be noted that Gabapentin shouldn’t be taken with alcohol, as it can increase the risk of side effects.

06

Who Shouldn’t Use Gabapentin?

Though insomnia is the most commonly reported sleep disorder, there isn’t one exact solution that’s right for everyone.

Gabapentin is one sleep aid that’s available and can help many people achieve deeper and more restorative sleep. But for some, the risks outweigh the benefits.

If you have a history of any of the following, please be sure to tell your doctor before starting a Gabapentin prescription:

  • Breathing problems
  • Depression or other mental health disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Dialysis treatment
  • Drug and alcohol misuse issues
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Seizures
  • Hypersensitivity to this or other medications
  • Pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding

Also, please let your doctor know if you regularly use any of the following:

  • Antacids
  • Sleeping pills
  • Narcotic medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Medicine for anxiety, depression or seizures

Always provide your doctor with a current and complete medical history, including conditions, surgeries, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements you use so a fully informed recommendation can be made.

07

Conclusion

Studies have shown Gabapentin to be an effective sleep aid for those who experience consistently interrupted sleep.

However, Gabapentin is a prescription medication and it’s very important to work with your doctor to understand if it or any sleep prescription is the right fit for you.