Topic Overview

Antidepressant medicines are often prescribed for people who have insomnia. Best results are seen in people who also have depression.footnote 1 Doctors often prescribe low doses of certain antidepressants in an attempt to facilitate sleep, even though the medicines have not been well studied for insomnia.

Examples of the antidepressants that might be prescribed for insomnia are amitriptyline and trazodone.

The side effects of these medicines, which may include sexual dysfunction, weight gain, dry mouth and throat, racing pulse, confusion, and disturbed dreams, must be weighed against their potential benefits.

Advisories. Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued:

  • Warnings on the antidepressants Paxil and Paxil CR (paroxetine) and birth defects. One new study showed that women who took Paxil during their first 12 weeks of pregnancy had a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects.
  • Advisories on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

Related Information



  1. Mahowald MW (2012). Disorders of sleep. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds., Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 2299–2304. Philadelphia: Saunders.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

Current as ofNovember 20, 2015