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Effects of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors on Objective and Subjective Sleep Quality

Oberndorfer S. · Saletu-Zyhlarz G. · Saletu B.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Vienna, Austria Neuropsychobiology 2000;42:69–81 (DOI:10.1159/000026676)


The purpose of this paper is to review the effects of selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitors on objective and subjective sleep and awakening quality measures. Polysomnography (PSG) demonstrated in both healthy volunteers and depressed patients a decrease in sleep efficiency and total sleep time, a lengthening of sleep latency and a deterioration in sleep continuity, including an increase in the number of awakenings and wake time during the total sleep period. Sleep architecture mostly showed an increase in S1 and S2 and a decrease in S3, S4 and REM sleep as well as a lengthening of REM latency. Objective awakening quality, if measured at all by psychometry, generally showed no decrements. Concerning subjective sleep and awakening quality, normals demonstrated either no changes or a tendency towards a deterioration, while in patients some improvement was observed. Reasons for this discrepancy will be discussed. Novel 5-HT reuptake inhibitors with additional modes of action such as 5-HT2 antagonism (e.g. trazodone, nefazodone) are more likely to improve objective and subjective sleep quality, although some shortcomings may be inherent in regard to comorbidity (e.g. sleep-related breathing disorders). Thus, PSG seems to be a necessity for diagnosis and treatment of complex sleep disorders.

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