Sleep problems are a very common symptom of depression. Roughly 15 percent of people with depression experience hypersomnia, or too much sleep, according to CBS News (2005). But many more people with depression also have problems with insomnia. In fact, up to 80 percent of people with depression may experience insomnia, according to Psychology Today (2003). These people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and they may wake up very early in the morning. Depression can also cause disruptions in the sleep cycle, causing people to wake up exhausted even after a full night’s sleep.
Both insomnia and depression have long-term health consequences if they go untreated. Fortunately, many of the same medications that treat depression can also relieve symptoms of insomnia. However, before taking prescription drugs, it’s importance to understand the relationship between sleep and antidepressants.
Antidepressant Sleep Aid Treatment
Antidepressants are often effective at treating both depression and insomnia. In fact, according to CNN (2009), three of the four most commonly prescribed sleep aids in 2004 were antidepressants. For many people, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help to relieve depression sleep problems. However, in some people, SSRIs may actually cause insomnia.
One of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant sleep aids is trazodone, which has a sedative effect. In addition to antidepressants, therapy may also be an effective way to treat depression sleep problems. In other situations, other prescription sleep aids may be prescribed in combination with antidepressants.
For many people with depression, a combination of medication and therapy helps to treat both sleep problems and their underlying cause. Talk with your doctor about various courses of treatment to decide which is right for you.
Antidepressant Side Effects
Although antidepressants are widely regarded as safer and less habit-forming than prescription sleep aids, they can cause a number of side effects. Some of the most common antidepressant side effects of SSRIs include:
- Decreased sex drive
- Dry mouth
- Weight fluctuations.
Many of these side effects occur because serotonin also plays a large role in digestion, pain management and thought patterns.
Antidepressants can also cause problems during the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage of sleep. Since REM sleep is when dreams occur, the body is normally paralyzed during this stage to keep people from acting out their dreams. But some antidepressants interfere with the brain’s ability to paralyze the body, so people who use antidepressants often move around in their sleep.
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