New Antidepressant Also Helps You Sleep

From the WebMD Archives

July 25, 2000 -- Many patients with severe depression complain of trouble sleeping, but some of the medications used to treat depression may sometimes actually add to their sleep problems.

However, Remeron, a relatively new antidepressant, may prove to be particularly useful for these people, because it quickly alleviates depression and also helps them sleep better.

Many physicians have noticed that Remeron affects sleep, says Andrew Winokur, MD, PhD, lead author of a new study that explored Remeron's effects on sleep. Depressed patients have reported that they sleep longer or heavier when they are taking it. On the down side, some of these patients have reported they feel sleepy during the daytime while on Remeron.

"Other [researchers] have estimated that 80% of patients with depression experience problems with sleep ... Our findings could give important practical information for [doctors] who might want to know which drugs would have the best combination of both antidepressant effects and also help sleep," says Winokur, of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

In their report in the July 1 issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry, Winokur and his colleagues evaluated the effect of Remeron on patients' sleep by studying their sleep in a sleep laboratory. Six patients who were diagnosed with severe depression and complained of sleep problems were selected.

The sleep-inducing effects of Remeron could be seen within the first week of treatment. Time taken to fall asleep decreased from about 15 minutes to five minutes. Total sleep time increased by about an hour a night -- from six hours to seven hours. The amount of time the participants spent actually sleeping compared to the amount of time just spent in bed also increased, from about 83% to 93%.

"I think this study clearly showed [Remeron] is a medication that is useful in promoting sleep in patients with depression," says Eric Nofzinger, MD, a psychiatrist affiliated with the Clinical Neuroscience Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. "That's a very useful feature because a number of patients with depression have difficulties in initiating sleep and staying asleep."