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Can Statin Side Effects Include Losing Sleep?

Sleep Disturbances May Count As One of the Statin Side Effects


Updated June 30, 2014

While there are few side effects of statins, there is some emerging information showing a possible relationship between statins and sleep pattern changes.

If you are already on a statin, your healthcare provider might have warned you of the side effects to look for, such as muscle weakness. One side effect of statins, however, has not really been addressed: sleep and mood disturbances.

Although more research is needed to investigate this issue, a study presented at the November 2007 American Heart Association conference has suggested that some statins may affect the quality of your sleep.

This study was performed at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine and compared the impact that two drugs had on behavior, mood, and sleep. Over 1,000 participants were enrolled in the study and were selected to receive either a placebo, Zocor (simvastatin) 20 mg or Pravachol (pravastatin) 40 mg. The participants were followed over six months and disturbances in mood and sleep noted their responses in a questionnaire. The study found that the individuals taking Zocor reported more sleep disturbances, including nightmares and poor sleep quality, than those those individuals taking Pravachol or the placebo. Additionally, participants taking Zocor experienced more aggression than those taking Pravachol and the placebo.

The difference between Zocor and Pravachol may be seen in the chemical structure of each of the drugs. Zocor is most lipophilic, or “fat loving,” of the statin class of drugs. This means that it has the ability to cross through high fat areas, including the blood-brain barrier. Pravachol, on the other hand, is most hydrophilic, or “water loving”, which means that this drug might have a more difficult time getting through the blood brain barrier.

A handful of small studies have already investigated the relationship between statins and sleep. A 1994 study examining the effects of Zocor and Pravachol concluded that participants taking Zocor had a more difficult time falling asleep, but the quality of sleep in the people taking each drug was not significantly affected. Additionally, in 1996, the Oxford Cholesterol Study found no significant disturbances in sleep for participants taking Zocor or Pravachol.

The studies performed so far indicate that, while sleep disturbances may be experienced by some, they will not be experienced by everyone taking a statin. Therefore, more studies would be needed to establish a definite connection between taking statins like Zocor and problems with sleep.


Golomb BA, Kwon EK, Criqui MH, et al. Abstract 3725: Simvastatin but Not Pravastatin Affects Sleep: Findings from the UCSD Statin Study. Circulation, Oct 2007; 116: II 847.

Golomb BA, Criqui MH, White HL. The UCSD Statin Study: a randomized controlled trial assessing the impact of statins on selected noncardiac outcomes.Control Clin Trials. 2004 Apr;25(2):178-202.

Harrison RW, Ashton CH. Do cholesterol-lowering agents affect brain activity? A comparison of simvastatin, pravastatin, and placebo in healthy volunteers. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1994 Mar;37(3):231-6.

Keech AC, Armitage JM, Wallendszus KR. Absence of effects of prolonged simvastatin therapy on nocturnal sleep in a large randomized placebo-controlled study. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1996 Oct;42(4):483-90.

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