Antidepressants and Insomnia

The Depression Connection

Insomnia and depression have been linked for some time now and the connection is still a bit elusive, but certain. Most sleep specialists and many psychiatrists believe that insomnia is often a secondary symptom to clinical depression. This is part of the problem with the rampant nature of chronic insomnia—many people like to overlook sleep problems as a nuisance they must simply live with. But truth is many of those shrugging off chronic insomnia may have other more pernicious medical conditions, including depression.

Not only do insomnia and depression make good bedfellows, but the drugs used to treat depression are more often than not also used to treat insomnia symptoms.

Depression and Insomnia

Depressed Girl.

Depression and insomnia symptoms are both triggered by disruptions in the complex neurological function. For depression sufferers serotonin levels are usually off and for those reporting insomnia symptoms the biological clock cycle, including melatonin levels, are off-track.

Insomnia sufferers have a variety of popular prescription sleep aids that many physicians have cautiously prescribed for the treatment of insomnia: Ambien, Lunesta, Rozerem, and Sonata are a few of the more well-known. Most are best suited to treating sleep onset and middle of the night insomnia, but are otherwise ineffective for late insomnia thanks to very short half-lives or the time they are active in your body.

With the exception of Rozerem, or ramelteon, these modern insomnia drugs are only approved for use up to 2 weeks. At that point they are considered a danger: habit-forming and declining in effectiveness.

A number of anti-depressant drugs however have come to be quite notable for their alternative applications as sleep aids. Trazodone is one of the most popular alternatives in the medical community for its off-label application to insomnia. And amitriptyline as an anti-depressant has been replaced with other newer and more effective anti-depressants, but it's still useful for treating pan associated with many medical conditions and for insomnia. The biggest benefit for some doctors is the usefulness of these anti-depressants in long-term treatment for insomnia, as opposed to only 2 weeks.

Off-Label Treatments, Unapproved Uses

These unapproved uses for anti-depressants is counter, sleep specialists say, to the goals of curing insomnia. Powerful short-term sleep aids plus the non-pharmacological behavioral therapy, CBT, provide much more targeted treatment options.

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