What It Means When Taking Ibuprofen Makes You Tired

The moment a headache or body ache strikes, it's common for many people to reach for ibuprofen, which is known to soothe inflammation and pain. While ibuprofen is an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever found in most homes, it does have a few side effects, like drowsiness. So, if you get a little sleepy while taking ibuprofen, don't be alarmed. However, extreme tiredness should be discussed with your doctor. To understand the side effects of ibuprofen, it's essential to look at the medication and how it works.

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), ibuprofen is designed to relieve inflammation, moderate pain, and fever, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. The swelling and stiffness that come with arthritis are also commonly treated with NSAIDs like ibuprofen (per Medline Plus). It is easy to acquire in tablet and liquid form for children and adults at your local store, but higher dosages of the drug can be obtained through a prescription from your healthcare provider. News Medical Life Sciences states that the drug works by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) in the body, leading to lower concentrations of prostaglandins in the body, the mediators of pain and inflammation.

For the most part, ibuprofen is deemed safe to use, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with side effects that can hinder your daily life. Learn why ibuprofen can make you tired and other side effects to watch for. We'll also go over ways to mitigate the tiredness created by ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen can cause tiredness as a side effect

WebMD does list drowsiness among the side effects of this medication. However, Advil states that regular ibuprofen isn't known to cause tiredness because it doesn't contain the typical components known for drowsiness. Certain products do carry a drowsiness warning, though. For example, Advil PM combines the sleep aid diphenhydramine with ibuprofen to make you tired and pain-free as you hit the hay. Look at your medication bottle to ensure your product has only ibuprofen as an ingredient. Tiredness can also be a sign that you took more than the recommended dose of the medication and requires a call to your doctor, per Medline Plus.

When you are feeling sleepy after taking ibuprofen, try to rest. Drowsiness can affect your cognitive function, especially for tasks like driving and operating machinery. Additionally, Harvard Health Publishing notes that sleepiness due to ibuprofen can warrant a call to your doctor. According to pharmacist Laura Carr, "Many people report tiredness or fatigue as a side effect from their medicines. However, there are things you can do to minimize the feelings of daytime sleepiness [...It] may simply be a matter of adjusting the dose or changing the medication that's causing the drowsiness."

It also might not be the drug that's making you sleepy, but the pain you feel creates sleep quality issues. Per Carr, easing your sleepiness from ibuprofen might require a good night's sleep and avoiding substances that can cause tiredness, like alcohol.

Other common side effects of ibuprofen to watch for

Like any medication in your cabinet, ibuprofen is susceptible to a range of side effects. Just because you can buy it OTC doesn't mean it's safe for everyone. When ibuprofen inhibits COX from creating inflammation, it also affects the stomach's protective lining, states the Hospital for Special Surgery. Therefore, NSAIDs may cause nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. Long-term use of NSAIDs can also create a peptic ulcer due to the inhibition of the stomach lining, according to 2021 research in Clinical Medicine. Notify your doctor immediately if ibuprofen is causing indigestion and stomach issues that continue beyond a few days. 

Ibuprofen also causes headaches and a feeling of dizziness, per the NHS. Combating a headache requires drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding alcohol, only taking the recommended dose, and avoiding frequent use, especially for those with a headache disorder. When dizziness strikes, take a seat until the feeling passes, and call your doctor if it lasts more than a few days. Dizziness can also be made worse by alcohol and caffeine, so it's best to avoid them.

Some people have an allergy to ibuprofen and NSAIDs, which can lead to a severe allergic reaction requiring immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a severe reaction include shortness of breath, swelling, hives, itching, excessive tiredness, and a fast heartbeat. Contact your healthcare professional immediately or rush to an emergency facility for any of these symptoms.