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How to Sleep While Taking Sertraline (Zoloft) – Doctor’s 6 Tips

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  • This article has been written by Dr. Darshan Shingala (M.D, MPH) – a qualified and practicing medical doctor – for maximum factual accuracy and reliability.

Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug that is sold under the brand name Zoloft.

Zoloft is most commonly prescribed for the treatment of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But can taking Zoloft cause insomnia?

Taking sertraline (Zoloft) can cause insomnia by distorting sleep patterns through suppression of rapid eye movement and by delaying the latency of the rapid eye movement period – although other patients may find that Zoloft causes drowsiness.

So how can you sleep better if Zoloft is causing you to experience insomnia?

The most effective way to sleep better when taking Zoloft (sertraline) is to take the medication in the morning to avoid insomnia (or take the medication at night if Zoloft makes you tired) – daytime exercise, meditation, and sleep hygiene can also help improve sleep quality.

The rest of this article provides you with 6 doctor-approved ways to sleep better when taking Zoloft.

However, you should always consult with your own doctor before adjusting your dose.

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6 Ways to Sleep Better When Taking Sertraline

Zoloft (Sertraline): What are the Side Effects? Watch Before You Start!

The video above tells you more about how Zoloft works and its side effects.

Sertraline can cause insomnia but it can also make you sleepy – the effects vary between users.

Most reports suggest that sertraline is relatively better tolerated than other classes of antidepressant drugs, especially tricyclic antidepressants [1].

The most common side effects associated with the use of sertraline are nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, somnolence, dizziness, tremor, ejaculation failure, decreased libido, and insomnia.

Out of all these side effects, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia are most frequently listed as the reasons for the discontinuation of treatment with sertraline [1, 3].

Below are 6 ways that you can sleep better whilst taking sertraline/Zoloft.

1: Reschedule Sertraline Intake Relative to its Affects On Sleep

If sertraline wakes you up, take it in the morning – if sertraline makes you sleepy, take it at night.

Zoloft therapy may interact differently with different individuals due to multiple factors, including daily lifestyle, medical and family history, ongoing therapeutic prescriptions, comorbidities such as social anxiety disorder, and hypersensitivity of the immune system [2].

Therefore, it is quite possible that some patients may feel drowsy, while others may find it difficult to sleep at night after talking Zoloft.

Rescheduling your medication time from the evening to the morning, or vice versa, depending on your personal experience, may help you to recalibrate your sleep schedule, and attain a more restful night’s sleep.

Consult Your Doctor Before Changing Your Zoloft Schedule

However, I would highly recommend that you discuss your concerns with your physician, prior to making any changes in your medication schedule.

It is important that you do not conceal any information from your physician, and that you provide them with a detailed account of your medical, family, social, and occupational history.

Please note that if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, planning parenthood, or taking oral contraceptives, you are required to disclose your health status to your doctor in advance.

While taking an antidepressant drug such as Zoloft, you should always try to avoid skipping any doses or breaking the continuity of your course of medication abruptly, without consulting with your medical doctor first.

If you forget to take Zoloft on time, but you remember shortly afterwards, take the missed dose as soon as possible [3].

However, if it is getting close to the time of your next dose, it would be better to wait and take your next dose as per your scheduled time.

Please note that to avoid any adverse effects and untoward medical events, you should never take two doses at the same time.

Click here for 7 ways to sleep better when taking Cymbalta (duloxetine).

2: Consult Your Doctor for Proper Guidance

I would strictly advise you to inform your physician about your current health concerns, and any drugs which you are consuming at present.

Doing so will help your physician in developing a personalized prescription and treatment plan for you, taking into consideration your diagnosis and past medical history.

It is important to take this seriously in order to prevent any adverse drug outcomes and avoid negative drug-to-drug interactions with Zoloft [4].

It is possible that your physician may not prescribe you Zoloft, or any drug belonging to a similar class if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to grow your family.

They might also make some alterations in the prescribed dosage and course of medication, if you have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions in the past, such as diabetes, epilepsy, or glaucoma [5].

In addition to that, they may ask you to stop taking any other antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, or amphetamines, as a precautionary measure.

I suggest that you discuss your treatment plan with your healthcare provider at length, and approach them if you have any questions or concerns.

Although scientific studies have not found any substantial evidence regarding possible drug interactions between melatonin and Zoloft, in my opinion, melatonin may reduce the efficiency of Zoloft [6, 7].

Thus, I usually advise my patients to strictly follow their prescription and avoid any substances, pills, or supplements which may have interfering effects on the therapy.

Therefore, before consuming any herbal or medical supplements to improve your sleep, I strongly recommend that you consult your physician, and seek their approval – as only they can guide you in the right direction, inform you about potential safety risks involved, and offer a tailored treatment plan which would be best suited for your health needs and lifestyle.

Click here for 6 ways to sleep better when taking Adderall.

3: Exercise Daily to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

It is a well-known fact that creating the habit of exercising on a regular basis can benefit us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

It has also been evidenced in various scientific studies that those who perform at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise five days per week, may avert diverse health problems – including cardiovascular diseases and sleeping disorders, as well as mitigating the symptoms of anxiety [8, 9].

In my professional opinion, daily physical activity and quality of sleep are strongly interlinked, and performing low to medium intensity exercises – like yoga, stretching, or deep-breathing exercises – can substantially encourage a more restful sleep at night [9].

However, it is imperative to perform the right kind of exercises at the right time of day to reap the maximum possible benefits from exercising.

Exercise in the Morning Rather than the Evening

I would suggest that you plan to include your exercise routine during the daytime, so that you feel energetic during the day, and can attain a more restorative sleep during the night.

The habit of exercising in the morning will also help those who tend to feel drowsy and find it difficult to wake up on time after taking Zoloft.

In addition to recalibrating your schedule, it is also very important that you are consistent with your exercise routine, if you want to experience the sleep-promoting benefits of exercise.

I usually suggest that my patients start slow, and take it easy.

It would be a good idea to choose a form of exercise that you really enjoy, and can make a habit of so that it is easier for you to develop consistency.

For example, you may begin building your exercise habit with just 15 minutes of walking, daily, and then increase to brisk walking, jogging, and eventually running.

Try Meditation in the Evening

In addition to your physical activity through your daily workouts, I would also recommend that you consider introducing a night time meditation session into your schedule, so that you can unwind after your day, and go to bed with a relaxed cognizance, and a calm mind.

This will help you to minimize your anxiety, manage your daily stress levels, relax your body, and attain peaceful, uninterrupted sleep throughout the night [8].

I would suggest that you practice a few basic mindfulness exercises in conjunction with Zoloft therapy, to supplement your treatment plan.

There are several free applications which offer guided meditation services, and many tutorials are widely available on the internet.

Discover 11 ways to get to sleep when taking prednisone here.

4: Practice the Sentient Breathing Technique for Peaceful Sleep

This is a very basic – yet highly effective – breathing exercise to improve the quality of your sleep and center your thoughts.

It is a fairly simple breathing technique to begin with, but it has plenty of benefits to offer.

I would suggest you give this a try, and follow the steps listed below:

  • Lie down in your bed comfortably, and keep your eyes closed.
  • Concentrate on your breathing pattern.
  • Try to identify your breaths – slowly begin counting each inhalation and exhalation.
  • Breathe through your nose.
  • Hold your breath for at least 5 seconds and then exhale slowly.
  • Relax your muscles and focus on your breathing pattern.
  • Play some soothing music if it helps you with concentration.
  • Repeat these steps until you feel relaxed and sleepy.

5: Perform a Body Scan Exercise to Achieve Better Sleep

This is another mindfulness technique, which can help you to improve your sleep by redirecting stress and releasing tension from your body.

The main concept of this exercise is to attentively scan your entire body for stressors, and gradually release them with time.

Here are the simple, step-by-step instructions to follow, in order to practice this exercise:

  • Lie down comfortably in your bed in a supine position with your eyes closed.
  • Keep your arms by your sides, and legs uncrossed.
  • Begin to focus on your breathing pattern.
  • After 2 to 3 minutes, start to mentally scan your entire body.
  • Focus on each part of your body, and notice if you feel any muscle tension, or changes in your breathing pattern. For example, you can start with the soles of your feet, and progressively shift your focus upwards.
  • Pay attention to each part of your body for at least 3 to 5 seconds, before you change your focus to another body part.
  • Identify all the stressors in your body, especially in the areas where you tend to hold the most tension, such as the neck, the shoulders, and the back.
  • Once you have completed the scanning process, notice how your breathing has changed, and how relaxed you feel.

Try to regularly perform these mindfulness exercises before going to sleep, for augmenting intrinsic and extrinsic stress, which may be disturbing your circadian rhythm.

Try these 10 ways to get to sleep after taking Afrin.

6: Optimize Your Sleep-Wake Cycle to Improve Sleep Quality

It is important to understand that no medications, dietary supplements, or sleeping aids can help you achieve a good night’s sleep unless you adopt a healthy sleep routine on a daily basis.

In my opinion, a few simple changes in your current sleep routine may help you to fall asleep quicker, and stay asleep for longer hours.

I would strongly recommend that you include as many of the following steps as possible, to improve your sleeping schedule, and get an uninterrupted night’s sleep:

Perform a Relaxing Activity Like Reading a Book

I usually recommend that my patients taking Zoloft establish a bedtime routine that can help them to unwind and relax.

For example, you can read a calming book before going to bed – or you may prefer to practice some of the abovementioned mindfulness exercises.

Instead of indulging in bedtime distractions – such as prolonged use of electronic devices – I would advise you to make sure that none of your chosen activities are screen-dependent, in order to minimize physical and mental stress.

Go to Bed and Get Up at the Same Times

As I mentioned previously, Zoloft may make some patients drowsy, while it may cause sleeplessness among others.

Therefore, to get the best sleep assistance while on Zoloft, I recommend that you go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time every day.

I would advise you to keep a record, set alarms, or get help from a friend or family member to establish a routine.

You should follow this routine religiously because it can assist you to calibrate your melatonin production.

In addition to that, obeying a sleep routine can help you to optimize your circadian rhythm, irrespective of Zoloft’s effects on your body.

Avoid Caffeine

I suggest you avoid the consumption of any caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages while you are taking Zoloft, in order to avoid hepato-toxic reactions.

Consuming alcoholic drinks can negatively influence the course of your treatment, and the quality of your sleep.

Also, while on Zoloft therapy, you should not consume any products with nicotine content, to avoid adverse effects and unwanted drug interactions.

Click here for 15 ways to sleep better after drinking coffee too late.

Avoid Heavy Meals Before Bed

I suggest that you should be careful about the meals you consume before going to bed, in order to get better sleep while taking Zoloft. I usually ask my patients to avoid large, heavy, fatty, and sugary meals for dinner.

Taper Down Liquid Intake Before Bed

Please pay attention to your water intake throughout the day, to avoid signs of dryness in your oral cavity because of Zoloft.

However, in my opinion, it would be best if you could drink most of your water during the daytime, so that, as the day progresses, you can slowly decrease your water intake, and avoid waking up in the middle of the night to use the washroom.

Dim the Lights and Lower the Bedroom Temperature

I would also advise you to try and maintain your bedroom temperature at a cool setting, and ensure that the room lighting is dim for at least 20 minutes before going to sleep.

This will help to regulate the natural melatonin production in your body, and also provide a comfortable sleeping environment for you to fall asleep quickly, rather than lying in bed awake for a while with unnecessary thoughts.

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Conclusion: Time Your Doses With Medical Guidance

In order to sleep better while taking Zoloft, it is recommended that you reschedule your Zoloft intake so that it is best suited for your circadian rhythm under the guidance of your doctor.

In order to improve the quality of your sleep while taking Zoloft, it is suggested that you create the habit of exercising in your daily routine and make a few minor changes to your lifestyle, to optimize your sleep/wake cycle.

Mindfulness practices, such as sentient breathing techniques and body scan exercises, can also be helpful in calming the mind before going to bed.

Minor changes to your schedule, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and tracking your sleep in a journal, can be helpful in recalibrating your sleep/wake cycle.

I suggest limiting the consumption of caffeinated drinks, alcoholic beverages, and nicotine-containing products, and avoiding consuming large, heavy, fatty, and sugary meals prior to going to bed.

If possible, try to maintain your bedroom temperature at a cooler setting, and ensure that the room lighting is dim for at least 20 minutes before bedtime.

I strongly advise that you avert from indulging in screen-dependent activities closer to bedtime, and observe a no-screen time, if possible.

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Sources and References

[1] Jindal RD, Friedman ES, Berman SR, Fasiczka AL, Howland RH, Thase ME. Effects of sertraline on sleep architecture in patients with depression. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003;23(6):540-548. doi:10.1097/01.jcp.0000095345.32154.9a

[2] Wichniak A, Wierzbicka A, Walęcka M, Jernajczyk W. Effects of Antidepressants on Sleep. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(9):63. Published 2017 Aug 9. doi:10.1007/s11920-017-0816-4

[3] Wilson S, Argyropoulos S. Antidepressants and sleep: a qualitative review of the literature. Drugs. 2005;65(7):927-947. doi:10.2165/00003495-200565070-00003

[4] Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. [Updated 2021 Aug 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547689/

[5] Varma A, Kaul RK, Varma P, Kalra V, Malhotra V. The effect of antidepressants on serum melatonin levels in endogenous depression. J Assoc Physicians India. 2002;50:1262-1265.

[6] Onaolapo AY, Adebayo AN, Onaolapo OJ. Exogenous daytime melatonin modulates response of adolescent mice in a repeated unpredictable stress paradigm. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2017;390(2):149-161. doi:10.1007/s00210-016-1314-7

[7] Aynaoglu Yildiz G, Yildiz D, Yapca OE, et al. Effect of diazepam, sertraline and melatonin on the stress-induced reproductive disorders and intrauterine growth restriction in female rats. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2021;34(24):4103-4109. doi:10.1080/14767058.2019.1706469

[8] Dolezal BA, Neufeld EV, Boland DM, Martin JL, Cooper CB. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review [published correction appears in Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:5979510]. Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:1364387. doi:10.1155/2017/1364387

[9] Combs K, Smith PJ, Sherwood A, et al. Impact of sleep complaints and depression outcomes among participants in the standard medical intervention and long-term exercise study of exercise and pharmacotherapy for depression. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2014;202(2):167-171. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000085

[10] Fava M, Hoog SL, Judge RA, Kopp JB, Nilsson ME, Gonzales JS. Acute efficacy of fluoxetine versus sertraline and paroxetine in major depressive disorder including effects of baseline insomnia. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2002;22(2):137-147. doi:10.1097/00004714-200204000-00006

[11] Zhang B, Hao Y, Jia F, Tang Y, Li X, Liu W, Arnulf I. Sertraline and rapid eye movement sleep without atonia: an 8-week, open-label study of depressed patients. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Dec 2;47:85-92. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2013.08.010. Epub 2013 Aug 29.

[12] Moraes, W. A. dos S., Burke, P. R., Coutinho, P. L., Guilleminault, C., Bittencourt, A. G., Tufik, S., & Poyares, D. (2011). Sedative antidepressants and insomnia. In Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria (Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 91–95). FapUNIFESP (SciELO). https://doi.org/10.1590/s1516-44462011000100017.

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