Paxil and Insomnia

by on July 30, 2012

Paxil (paroxetine) can cause a number of side effects, and insomnia (or sleep problems) is one of the most commonly reported. Clinical studies reveal that up to 25 percent of people taking this medication reported insomnia as a side effect. However, it is not entirely clear whether Paxil directly causes insomnia as there are a lot of contributing factors that may increase the likelihood of sleep disturbances in patients taking this medication.

How Paxil Affects Sleep

Paxil, like other serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), works on certain brain chemicals which can interfere with sleep architecture. Specifically, these antidepressant drugs may delay the onset of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which is essential in achieving a relaxing sleep. It can also increase the chances of awakenings which can negatively impact the quality of sleep.

Furthermore, Paxil has been associated with abnormal dreams and nightmares, especially when used for treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This possible side effect can also affect patient’s sleep.

However, there are other factors that can contribute to insomnia. For instance, patients taking Paxil for depression may have insomnia as a symptom of the condition. Chemical imbalances in the brain can also be attributed to difficulty sleeping. Aside from depression, there other emotional conditions can likewise result in trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

Because of the many contributing factors, it is quite difficult to know the actual cause of insomnia in patients taking Paxil.

Managing Insomnia with Paxil

If Paxil causes insomnia or sleep disturbances that affect your daily life, you should contact your healthcare provider for specific recommendations. However, you can try some things that can help improve your quality of sleep and even treat insomnia. Some of the healthy sleeping habits you can try include:

  • Following a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try to sleep and wake up around the same time of the day, daily.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, and smoking at least 6 hours before sleeping.
  • Do not engage in intense physical and mental activities two hours before bedtime. However, exercise early in the morning or six hours before sleep may help improve sleep.
  • Do not eat huge meals within two hours of sleeping time.
  • Afternoon naps can make sleeping at night difficult.
  • A dark, quiet room with comfortable temperature can help make you sleep better.
  • Do not force yourself into sleep. If you cannot fall asleep in 20 minutes, get up and do a quiet activity then return to bed once sleepy.
  • Silent activities or pre-sleep ritual, such as soft music, warm bath or reading, at least 30 minutes before bedtime can help you sleep faster.

Even if you experience severe insomnia symptoms, abruptly discontinuing treatment is never recommended. Make sure to talk with your doctor about possible treatment options such as adjusting your dose or switching to other medications.