Published on 12 May 2023

Can Antidepressants Cause Nightmares: Is It A Myth Or Truth?

Citalopram (Celexa) Can Antidepressants cause nightmares
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Nowadays, Mental health issues are becoming global. As per some reports, mental problems are common in the United States. Every person among the five American adults is estimated to have mental issues. That’s why most people prefer antidepressants to overcome their mental health conditions.   

While taking antidepressants, some people also face nightmares. Usually, 50 to 85 % of American adults report occasional nightmares. A study conducted in 2021 stated that nightmares occurred in those who had depression compared to those who didn’t. 

It is said that antidepressants impact dreams, which later become nightmares, but does it cause nightmares? Know more about it in detail.  

What Is An Antidepressant?

Antidepressants are a class of medications that are used to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. They function by managing the balance of neurotransmitters. Most antidepressants are safe and approved by the Food And Drug Administration(FDA).

Primarily, antidepressants are prescribed by a professional or health care provider and should be taken under supervision. Same as other medications, antidepressants can also cause side effects and should not be stopped without the permission of the doctor.   

What Is A Nightmare?

A nightmare is a disturbing dream linked with negative feelings such as depression and anxiety that are bothering you. The causes of nightmares may vary from person to person, but, as per some experts, it is connected to different incidents in life. Nightmares can be seen in children and adults at any age. 

Being chased,  falling from the top, or feeling helpless are common nightmares in those with mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder

Can Antidepressants Cause Nightmares? 

Depression is known to cause sleep problems such as insomnia, early morning awakening, etc. To get fix this situation, most people take antidepressants. So they can sleep peacefully and deal with depression. But certain medications, like SSRIs and antidepressants, can also impact sleep quality

According to some research, antidepressants may vary your dreams, which can be pleasant or change into a nightmare. cc and reduces recall. 

It is necessary to note that antidepressants impact differently on dreaming as per the person’s state of mind. Not every person feels a change, but people consuming medicine may experience it. 

Research On The Impact Of Antidepressants 

A report was published in 2013 in sleep medicine reviews where a team of researchers examined the impacts of antidepressants on dreams in both depressed and non-depressed ones. This study compared the different antidepressant’s impacts on the dreams of people who take antidepressants and those who don’t. 

Different methods were used to record the dream content, such as morning dream diaries, verbal reports on forced awakening during REM sleep, and questionnaires. 

It concluded in a way that people who have been through the withdrawal symptoms will suffer from nightmares more often compared to others who have lowered the medicine as recommended by the doctor.

Frequently asked questions

Nightmares can be reduced by doing various things such as regular exercise, thinking about good memories, reading, etc. Sufficient sleep can also be a great option to reduce the chances of nightmares.
Too much consumption of antidepressants can impact mental and physical health. A study found that people who take antidepressants are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or heart-related problems.
Discontinuing to take antidepressants abruptly may cause nightmares. That’s why getting a doctor’s guidance is always important before stopping it.

The Different Classes Of Antidepressants 

Like other medications, antidepressants also have different types, impacting every person differently. Some studies indicate that various types of Antidepressants can influence dreams. Let’s know more about it.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants(TCA) are a drug class founded in the market in 1959 as a pharmacotherapy for major depressive disorder. Today, Food And Drug Administration has also approved this medication to treat different illnesses. It is an antidepressant that inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin. TCA includes some following medications.

  • Amitriptyline 
  • Amoxapine 
  • Anafranil 
  • Doxepin 
  • Tofranil 
  • Protriptyline
  • Trimipramine

Some researchers found that taking TCA can make individuals recollect their dreams less often, though they are depressed or non-depressed. Conversely, tricyclic antidepressants can make your dream pleasant and positive.

SSRI And SNRI Antidepressants

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRI) are drugs used as an antidepressant for major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and other psychological conditions. It increases serotonin levels in the brain, whereas serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors(SNRI) increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels.

SSRI includes such medications as:

  • Citalopram 
  • Dapoxetine 
  • Fluoxetine 
  • Fluvoxamine 
  • Paroxetine 
  • Sertraline 
  • Vortioxetine 

SNRI includes such medications such as: 

  • Desvenlafaxine 
  • Venlafaxine
  • Desvenlafaxine
  • Levomilnacipran 

Antidepressants related to SSRI and SNRI have been seen to intensify dreams and increase how often people face nightmares. One case has been found where one patient face intense and frightening nightmares. 

How Long Do Antidepressants Stay In Your System?

Most people get confused after taking antidepressants as to how long it stays in the system. The duration of an antidepressant depends on different factors like which type of antidepressant you are taking and your overall health.

Generally, an antidepressant takes several days to several weeks to leave your system after stopping them. An average antidepressant can stay up to 4 to 7 days in your system after the last use. 

Other Medications That Cause Nightmares

Apart from antidepressants, other types of medications are prescribed to treat different health conditions, but later, they may cause nightmares and other challenges in dreams. Below are some medications that may cause nightmares. 

Beta Blockers

Beta-blockers are commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart-related problems. While treating high blood pressure, this medicine affects your brain to react to norepinephrine, a stress hormone released into the blood when the brain finds a stressful event has occurred.  

It may also block the release of Melatonin, a chemical the body makes to produce sleep. A decrease in the amount of Melatonin may lead to sleeping problems, including insomnia and nightmares. Melatonin comes under the best otc sleeping pill. Beta-blockers include such medications as propranolol, metoprolol, bisoprolol, nebivolol, and carvedilol. 

Cholesterol Medications 

This medication is used to treat high cholesterol and works by slowing down the liver’s production of cholesterol. In rare cases, people reported nightmares and sleep disturbance after taking statins. It’s a group of medicine that helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Statins include medications such as Zocor, pravastatin, atorvastatin, etc. 


Most people use anabolic steroids to enhance their muscle strength, but similar to antidepressants, steroids may also affect the serotonin neurotransmitter, which improves mood. Steroids like Prednisone and Medrol may impact brain chemistry and lead to nightmares. 

Sleep Medications 

Some medications used to treat insomnia can also cause nightmares or bad dreams. Not every user needs to face this effect. But in case you experienced it, get guidance from professionals. Sleep medications include medicines such as Zolpidem, diphenhydramine, zaleplon, etc. It is advisable to take sleep medications with a prescription. 

Alzheimer’s Disease Medications

Medications like Aricept and Exelon treat dementia in Alzheimer’s patients but can impact their sleep quality. Some studies have found that those who take this medication in the morning can fight this issue more effectively than people who consume the medicine at night.

Parkinson’s Disease Medications

A decreasing level of dopamine in the brain can cause Parkinson’s disease. It is a progressive disease, and that’s why people take this medicine to get instant relief. But while increasing the levels of dopamine, it may impact dreams which lead to nightmares; Medications include clozapine(Clozaril), olanzapine(Zyprexa), risperidone(Risperdal), etc. 

Treatments For Nightmares

Every person experiences a nightmare atleast once in life, but for others, it might reoccur. A nightmare is a dream linked with negative feelings that sometimes frighten you. As per some clinical centers, treatment for nightmare are not usually necessary. But if nightmares are causing you distress or sleep disturbance, then treatment is needed. 

Medical Treatment

If the nightmares are occurring due to your medical condition, it is advisable to take the guidance of a healthcare provider for the treatment.

Stress Or Anxiety Treatment

If a mental health condition causes you nightmares, your doctor may suggest some relaxation techniques such as meditation, listening to music, etc., or you can appoint a mental health therapist.

Imagery Rehearsal Therapy 

This therapy is often used for those who have nightmares because of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It involves the change in the ending part of the remembered nightmare. So, you can imagine the new ending in your mind. This approach can overcome the chances of getting nightmares. 


Medications are used less to treat nightmares. If a person is associated with PTSD and experiences nightmares frequently. Then the medication may be recommended by the professional. 

Also, Read

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

Mostly antidepressants are used to treat mental health conditions, but sometimes they may impact dreams, leading to nightmares. Changes in dreams and nightmares are not frequently occurring while taking antidepressants. 

Antidepressants can also control how often you dream and lowers the ability to recall dreams. If you are experiencing changes in sleep or other side effects while taking antidepressants, talk to your therapist or doctor.