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How Effective Is Citalopram for Insomnia?

By Debra Barnhart
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Citalopram, sold under the brand name Celexa® in the US and Canada, is a prescription drug for treating depression and anxiety. A physician would be unlikely to prescribe Citalopram for insomnia alone, because while the medicine relieves symptoms of depression, it does not appear that prescribing Citalopram for insomnia is an effective treatment. Actually, insomnia can be a side effect of many anti-depressants, and this may be the case for Citalopram as well. Difficulty sleeping is often a symptom of depression and anxiety, but there are other causes for insomnia, and many treatments.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is the class of anti-depressant drugs to which Citalopram belongs. Lexapro®, Paxil® and Prozac® fit in the same category. As a class of drugs SSRI have been demonstrated to possibly cause changes in sleep patterns. These drugs have a positive effect on symptoms of depression like difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, and negative thought patterns. SSRI drugs are not known, however, for relieving insomnia, and they may actually contribute to sleeping problems.

In controlled studies, about 15 percent of patients taking Citalopram reported suffering from insomnia. In a group taking a placebo, 14 percent reported that they suffered from disruption to sleep patterns. It does not appear that taking Citalopram for insomnia is an effective treatment as it may even hinder sleeping. Other possible side effects of Citalopram include nausea, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth and sweating. As with many drugs, withdrawal from Citalopram should take place gradually to avoid side effects like dizziness, irritability, and changes in sensory perception.

While it does not appear that prescribing Citalopram for insomnia is a helpful course of treatment, it is possible that relieving many of the symptoms and causes of depression and anxiety can have a positive impact on sleep patterns. Many sufferers describe depression as an overwhelming dark presence that clouds everyday happiness and interferes with normal daily activity. Both insomnia and hypersomnia, which is sleeping too much, can be symptoms of depression. Waking during the early morning hours, in particular, is a common symptom of depression. Not surprisingly, insomnia is also a symptom of an anxiety disorder. A patient often experiences both depression and anxiety together.

Depression and anxiety are not the only causes of insomnia, of course. Sleep disorders can also be caused by problems with breathing and by environmental factors like temperature and the presence of light. In particular, sleep apnea, which is uneven or suspended breathing during sleep, can be a serious condition. Some sleep problems may be controlled by maintaining a good sleep environment and practicing relaxation techniques. The patient’s physician should conduct a thorough examination to discover the source of sleeping problems.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Aug 29, 2014

It's actually strange that citalopram doesn't help with insomnia because some insomnia treatments work by increasing serotonin. For example, 5 HTP is a supplement that some use for both insomnia and depression. It helps increase serotonin levels in the body and it works quite well for many people.

Since citalopram also increases serotonin levels, I would expect it to do the same but I guess it doesn't work like that. If anyone is tempted to combine citalopram with other sleep treatments like 5 HTP, don't. Combining drugs can have very negative side effects. Too much serotonin can cause something called serotonin syndrome. A doctor should always be advised before using any treatment or remedy.

By literally45 — On Aug 28, 2014

@SteamLouis-- I too tried citalopram for my depression and mild insomnia. I was hoping that it would help both of my issues but it didn't do anything. Like the article said, the medication actually disrupted my sleep patterns more.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 28, 2014

I used citalopram for a few years for anxiety. It did not make me sleep earlier or sleep more. It did cause some drowsiness and fatigue. But I agree that citalopram won't work for insomnia alone. If someone can't sleep because of anxiety, then it might help because it is fairly effective for anxiety. But even for that, it takes the medication six months to start showing its effects. So I think that someone with insomnia will probably be better off with a different treatment.

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