December 20, 2004

Atypical Meds May Help Sleep

Sleep difficulties are a common problem among people with schizophrenia, either due to disturbing symptoms or as a side effect of the medication used to treat those symptoms. A recent study from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that atypical antipsychotics (as opposed to the older versions) may help improve sleep quality in some patients. Adequate and good-quality sleep is especially important for people with illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, as an insufficient amount of sleep can increase stress and exacerbate symptoms, as well as significantly reduce the quality and functionality of waking hours.

The study included 92 people (mean age 60 years, all from Japan) with schizophrenia, each of whom had been previously taking s typical antipsychotic. Each subject was randomly assigned one out of four possible atypical antipsychotics.

After 8 weeks on the new treatment, results (collected by survey) showed that, with the exception of those taking the compound perospirone, patients reported an improvement in sleep quality, latency, and efficiency, as well as reductions in sleep disturbance and daytime dysfunction. However, the actual duration of sleeping time did not change, and patients continued to use sleeping medications with the same frequency as they had on their old medications.

Improvement in sleep quality correlated with an improvement in negative symptoms. Those with poorer quality to begin with showed the greatest level of noticeable improvement with the new medication.

The researchers suggested that the greater serotonin action of atypical antipsychotics may help to improve sleep quality, and suggest that these medications might be helpful for people with schizophrenia who experience sleep problems.

Given the narrow patient demographic, we should be cautious in generalizing these results as applicable to everyone. There are many simple, natural remedies that can alleviate sleep difficulties, as well as over-the-counter medications. For example, getting enough daily exercise, reducing or eliminating caffeine intake, and learning relaxation or guided imagery techniques to use before bedtime can all help. Ask your doctor for recommendations if you are having sleeping problems.

Source: Atypical Antipsychotics Improve Sleep Quality, Dec 15 2004. Available at PsychiatrySource (

View the study abstract: J Clin Psychiatry. 2004 Nov;65(11):1525-30. Available at


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