Are you searching for the antidepressant medication mirtazapine and its effects in the treatment of insomnia (sleeping difficulties)? Here is an in-depth article about mirtazapine and how it is used for relieving insomnia.
Mirtazapine, also known as Remeron, is a drug used to treat major depressive disorders. It is categorized under the class of atypical antidepressants.
Mirtazapine is used to treat depression, anxiety, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorders). It is also an off-label drug treatment for relieving insomnia and increasing appetite.
Research studied the effect of mirtazapine on two groups. One group had depression with insomnia, while the other was suffering only from insomnia. The study revealed that low-dose mirtazapine was effective in treating insomnia in both groups, whether they had depression or didn’t have depression.
Similarly, in another study, insomnia was induced in people with traffic noise, and they were administered a low dose of 7 mg mirtazapine to check the effects of the medicine. The drug improved both the sleep quality and sleep time in the individuals.
Hence, research and studies have proven that mirtazapine is effective for improving both the quality and quantity of sleep.
Mirtazapine acts on the central nervous system. Hence, the drug is used to treat all major disorders of the brain.
For example, mirtazapine is widely effective for treating mood disorders like depression, anxiety, or insomnia.
Mirtazapine is used to treat the following conditions:
Depression, also called a major depressive disorder, is a serious medical illness that affects a person’s mood and mental well-being. It causes a persistent feeling of sadness, grief, and loss of interest in daily activities.
To treat depression, mirtazapine alters the functioning of the central nervous system by balancing certain chemicals in the brain.
Anxiety is the constant feeling of fear, stress, and worry about the future or the unknown. Mirtazapine calms and relaxes the brain to treat anxiety.
OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is another mental health disorder that brings unwanted, uncontrollable, and recurring thoughts in a person, which leads to anxious and distressed behavior. Mirtazapine is also given for treating obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person struggles to stay or fall asleep. Mirtazapine has sedative effects at low doses and is used to treat insomnia.
5. Appetite Stimulant
One of the most common actions of mirtazapine is that it increases appetite, thus leading to weight gain. Mirtazapine is not approved by the US FDA to be used as an appetite stimulant, but the drug is sometimes utilized as an off-label therapy to increase appetite and gain weight.
Mirtazapine works by increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers), i.e., norepinephrine and serotonin, in your brain. These neurotransmitters are the happy chemicals of our brain.
They are mood stabilizers and develop a feeling of well-being. Hence, mirtazapine is an antidepressant medication that increases the concentration of these mood stabilizers to relieve depression.
Although mirtazapine is an antidepressant drug, studies and research have proven that low doses of mirtazapine have sedating effects and it is an effective therapy to relieve insomnia (sleeping difficulties). Most importantly, the sedative effects of mirtazapine are more significant at low doses but are diminished at high doses.
Mirtazapine has shown potential effects in different phases of sleep.
Mirtazapine reduces the time to fall asleep, decreases awakenings in the middle of the night, and improves the overall quality of sleep. The drug is also helpful in relieving insomnia caused by depression and anxiety.
Unlike benzodiazepines, all antidepressants take a few weeks to work. And as mirtazapine is an antidepressant, it may take around 4 to 6 weeks to work and show apparent beneficial effects.
When mirtazapine is taken at low doses for insomnia, it takes around 1 to 2 weeks to show response. But the effect may vary from patient to patient. Some patients may experience the response from the first dose, while some patients might experience the response gradually.
However, mirtazapine is not a long-term solution for insomnia. The drug’s sedative effects may decrease with time as your body gets used to the drug. Hence, it is advisable to focus on treating the underlying cause of insomnia along with taking mirtazapine.
The common side effects of mirtazapine go away with time. So, you don’t need to worry about them as they usually occur. However, if they persist or become intolerable, consult your pharmacist to switch your medication.
The side effects of mirtazapine vary from patient to patient.
Side effects for mirtazapine include:
The severe side effects for mirtazapine include:
Elderly patients are more likely to experience mirtazapine side effects like confusion or drowsiness. Hence, they should be given a lower dose at the start of therapy to determine how your body responds to the drug.
Side effects, including the following, are more likely to be experienced by elderly patients taking mirtazapine:
The US FDA classifies mirtazapine as a pregnancy category C drug. This means the drug shows adverse effects on the fetus in animal studies, but there are no well-controlled or adequate findings in humans. However, the risk for congenital malformations in the first trimester of pregnancy has been concerned with the use of mirtazapine.
Hence, mirtazapine should be taken in pregnancy if clearly needed or if its benefits outweigh the risk factors. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant before taking mirtazapine.
If your baby is healthy and your doctor allows you to take mirtazapine while breastfeeding, you can take the drug. Mirtazapine is excreted in breastmilk but in small amounts, and no prominent harm is seen with the use of the drug.
But remember to keep a check on your baby while using the drug during breastfeeding. If you notice any unusual change or restlessness and irritability in your baby, consult your healthcare professional immediately.
Here are some tips for managing the common side effects of mirtazapine:
Take mirtazapine as recommended by your doctor. For insomnia, take mirtazapine once daily before bedtime.
Start with a low dose by consulting with your doctor. To treat insomnia, the drug is most effective if taken at doses from 5 to 10 mg before bedtime.
Mirtazapine is available in both tablet and liquid dosage forms. It comes in the following strengths:
The starting dose of mirtazapine for sleep is 3.75 to 7.5 mg before bedtime. The dose may be increased up to 15 mg per day and taken at bedtime for insomnia or insomnia accompanied by depression.
A study in the US trial revealed that low doses of mirtazapine from 5 to 10 mg were more effective in relieving insomnia than doses from 15 to 20 mg. The research also showed that sedating effects of mirtazapine were more stronger in the first few weeks of treatment.
The standard dose of mirtazapine for depression or anxiety is 15 to 30 mg per day given at bedtime for two to four weeks. If necessary, the dose may be 45 mg per day given once daily or in two divided doses.
Alcohol and high cholesterol levels are known to interact with mirtazapine. Alcohol increases the nervous system side effects of mirtazapine like drowsiness, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating. Impairment in thinking and judgment is also seen when mirtazapine and alcohol are taken together.
Hence, it is recommended to avoid alcohol or limit its intake when you are on mirtazapine therapy. Do not take alcohol with the drug or after taking mirtazapine.
The levels of mirtazapine in the body can increase in patients having elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Hence, close monitoring of cholesterol levels or dose adjustment of mirtazapine is recommended in patients with high cholesterol during mirtazapine therapy.
The drug interactions of mirtazapine include:
Mirtazapine can cause serotonin syndrome if taken with the following drugs:
Mirtazapine is a prescription-based medication that comes under the class of atypical antidepressants. It increases the concentration of happy chemicals in your brain, i.e. serotonin and norepinephrine.
The most common side effects of mirtazapine go away on their own as you get used to the drug. They include:
Mirtazapine is mainly used for treating depression and anxiety. Its off-label uses include increasing appetite and relieving insomnia.
No. Mirtazapine is not a sleeping pill. Only its low-dose sedative effects are used to relieve insomnia. Moreover, unlike other drugs that are primarily used for insomnia, mirtazapine does not have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
It may take a few weeks, i.e., from 2 to 4 weeks to get used to the drug. But the duration may vary from patient to patient. Some people may get used to the drug in the first week, while some may require 2 to 4 weeks to get a response or get used to its side effects.
When taking mirtazapine, monitor for any extreme, persistent, or unusual side effects. The common side effects go away on their own, but if they persist or become uncontrollable, consult your doctor. Also, monitor for symptoms like breathing difficulties, hallucinations, fast heart rate, excessive dizziness, sweating, and muscle stiffness.
Mirtazapine takes around 1 to 2 weeks to work for sleep.
Mirtazapine is an antidepressant drug that comes under the brand name Remeron. The drug is mainly indicated for treating anxiety, depression, and OCD. With that, research and studies have proven that low doses of mirtazapine are effective for treating insomnia. Doses of up to 5 to 10 mg of mirtazapine have sedative effects and can relieve insomnia.
Commonly, the drug is prescribed to be taken for once-daily dosing at bedtime. Side effects such as weight gain and drowsiness are common with mirtazapine. Hence, it is recommended to avoid driving, engaging in alerting activities, or drinking alcohol while taking mirtazapine.