Authored by Revere Health

Can I Take Antipsychotics to Treat My Insomnia?

September 28, 2018 | Sleep MedicineValue-Based Care

One in three adults reports getting less than the recommended amount of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can often be by choice, but sometimes it can be caused by a condition called insomnia.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people find it difficult to fall or stay asleep, resulting in fatigue, low energy, a disturbance in mood, difficulty concentrating and decreased performance at work or school. Antipsychotics are often used to treat this disorder, but research shows they may not be the best option for the first line of treatment against insomnia.

Why is it so important to treat insomnia?

Improper sleep can have serious effects on your health and your wallet. In the United States alone, insomnia is estimated to cost the economy more than $1 billion every year. These costs are attributable to a number of factors from increased utilization of health resources like doctor visits and prescription medications to indirect costs associated with things like insomnia-related motor vehicle accidents.

Insomnia also affects your health. People with untreated insomnia have a shorter life expectancy and are at an increased risk of experiencing health problems such as:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Asthma attacks
  • Psychological conditions including depression and anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system

Risks of using antipsychotics for insomnia

Antipsychotics are FDA-approved drugs that treat mental illness, although some people take them atypically to treat insomnia. These drugs often make people feel drowsy, but there is little research to show they actually help people stay asleep. The benefits of taking an antipsychotic for insomnia generally do not outweigh the risks, which include:

  • Blood clots
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, disorientation
  • A higher risk of falls and injuries
  • Weight gain
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Muscle twitches, tremors, spasms

In most cases, non-antipsychotic treatments can significantly improve insomnia and its effects.

When antipsychotics for insomnia are appropriate

In some cases, the use of antipsychotics to treat insomnia may be appropriate. The American Psychiatric Association advises considering antipsychotics to treat insomnia only if:

  • You have a serious mental illness that keeps you from sleeping, such as bipolar disorder with mania
  • Other treatment options have not been successful
  • Your lack of sleep is causing severe distress

It’s important to notify your doctor if you have any side effects.

What other treatment options are available for insomnia?

Before resorting to antipsychotic drugs to treat insomnia, talk to your doctor about trying the following options:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids: If your insomnia is mild or acute (lasting only a short period of time), you may find relief with an OTC aid like Melatonin.
  • Relaxation training: Also called progressive muscle relaxation, this technique trains the body to methodically tense and relax muscles throughout the body. Breathing exercises and guided imagery are also forms of relaxation training.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This form of therapy helps you identify and change behavioral problems that contribute to insomnia.
  • Prescription medication: There are several drugs developed specifically to treat insomnia. Your health factors may influence which medications are safe for you to use.
  • Stimulus control: This involves associating your bed only with sleeping by limiting the activities you do in your bedroom. An example might be avoiding watching TV in your room or getting out of bed if you’ve been awake for more than 20 minutes.
  • Other medical treatment: Insomnia can often be a symptom of another condition, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, heartburn or frequent nighttime urination. Treating that underlying condition can also treat insomnia.

If you experience insomnia or do not get restful sleep, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Our physicians and technicians work with your primary care physician to diagnose a variety of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. If you are experiencing symptoms that relate to a disorder, such as daytime sleepiness or irregular sleep patterns, our center can help you explore a variety of options.



“What is Insomnia?” National Sleep Foundation.

“Why Treat Insomnia?” National Institutes of Health.

“The Economic Burden of Insomnia: Direct and Indirect Costs for Individuals with Insomnia Syndrome, Insomnia Symptoms, and Good Sleepers.” National Institutes of Health.

“Effects of Insomnia on the Body.” Healthline.

“Treating Sleep Problems.” Choosing Wisely.

“Treatment – Insomnia.” National Sleep Foundation.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.