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What Is the Connection between Sertraline and Insomnia?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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The connection between sertraline and insomnia is that the drug has been shown to cause the condition in clinical trials. Studies have shown that almost one-third of patients who are taking sertraline will experience insomnia as a side effect of the drug. Insomnia has been shown to be slightly more likely in people who are taking the drug for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and much less likely for women taking the drug for premenstrual dysphoric disorders (PMDD). Sertraline and insomnia are related because of the relatively high chance that patients will experience insomnia after taking the drug.

The brain is full of chemical messengers that stimulate the nerves within it. Serotonin is one such chemical messenger, and the levels of it within the brain are generally thought to be related to conditions such as depression. Sertraline is classed as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which aims to help patients who have depression by preventing the serotonin that is produced from being taken up by the nerve that produced it. By preventing the reuptake of serotonin, sertraline is designed to leave more of the chemical within the brain to stimulate other nerves and balance the patient’s serotonin levels. This effect should result in an improvement in the patient’s mood.

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Studies have shown that almost one-third of the patients who take sertraline will experience insomnia. Being unable to get to sleep, waking up too early or waking up intermittently throughout the night are signs of insomnia. The chances of sertraline and insomnia being linked are more pronounced if the patient is using the drug to treat OCD. Research has shown that the chance is reduced to about 10 percent if the patient is taking the drug for PMDD.

Practicing good “sleep hygiene” is one suggestion for patients who experience insomnia after taking sertraline. Many things can be done to improve the patient’s sleep hygiene, including going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding daytime naps and getting up at the same time each morning. Also, patients who are having trouble with insomnia are advised to avoid caffeine for at least four to six hours before they plan to go to bed. Dimming the lights 30 minutes before going to sleep to prepare the body and mind for sleep also is a good idea for patients who are struggling because of the connection between sertraline and insomnia.

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bear78
Post 3

I remember reading somewhere that sertraline affects the REM sleep cycle. This is a cycle of deep sleep where we dream. Sertraline might prevent REM sleep.

bluedolphin
Post 2

@ZipLine-- It's funny you would mention melatonin because I was taking melatonin supplements when I was on sertraline, to help with the insomnia. I had insomnia throughout my sertraline treatment. It was not as bad with the melatonin, so that might have been the issue. I never saw the connection at the time.

I'm on a different antidepressant now that doesn't cause insomnia. Anyone who experiences chronic insomnia from sertraline needs to speak to their doctor to change their medication. There is no reason to put up with it.

ZipLine
Post 1

SSRIs usually make me tired and sleepy. I always sleep more when I'm on antidepressant medication. I'm surprised to know that sertraline can cause insomnia as well. Is it because of more serotonin levels in the brain? Does serotonin affect melatonin hormone levels? As far as I know, melatonin determines our sleep cycles.

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