Using Remeron (Mirtazapine) for Sleep: Is it Effective?

April 20, 2021

Sleep is something that many adults take for granted. Getting the right amount of sleep every night can have direct benefits on your mood, cognition, and productivity. However, 70% of US adults have reported that they get insufficient sleep at least one night a month. 

There are a number of ways to try to improve your sleep cycle. One of them is taking medication to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. One such drug is Remeron, or mirtazapine.

While Remeron is also sometimes used as an antidepressant, it has shown some promise in helping to alleviate sleep disorders. Let’s look at Remeron’s effectiveness, as well its other uses and side effects.

What is Remeron?

Remeron is the brand name of mirtazapine, a prescription medication primarily used to treat symptoms of depression. However, it is often used to help people with sleep disorders.

Using Remeron for sleep is an “off-label” use, meaning that it is prescribed for a condition that is not licensed or written on the medication’s label. But while Remeron is not licensed to treat things like insomnia, it has shown promise as an effective remedy.

How Does Remeron Work as a Sleep Aid?

There have been a number of studies conducted to show the effectiveness of Remeron as a sleep aid. 

In one study, all participants noted an improvement in their sleep cycles after taking Remeron.

Antidepressant medications such as Remeron work to increase the abundance of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurochemical responsible for stabilizing your mood and feelings of well-being, but it can also play a role in helping with sleep.

Remeron has sedative effects, meaning that it can reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. Additionally, it has been shown to slightly reduce REM sleep and night-time waking, which helps to improve the overall quality of sleep. This may be attributed to the fact that it has pronounced antihistamine properties, which often cause drowsiness.

Better sleep is a secondary improvement of all antidepressants, attributed to better moods and increased daytime activity. 

With all of this said, there are no studies that have been done to examine the efficacy of Remeron in individuals who have insomnia alone. Every clinical trial so far has been conducted in individuals who have depression or are fully healthy. More evidence is needed to conclusively say if Remeron can be used to help with sleep disorders alone.

Remeron Side Effects

Despite the fact that Remeron has proven fairly successful for treating depression and helping with sleep, it doesn’t come without possible side effects.

Interestingly enough, one of the main side effects of Remeron is insomnia. This is likely to occur during the first few weeks of taking the medication, as the abundance of serotonin in your body is likely to make it more difficult to sleep. This should even out as you continue to take the medication regularly.

Other common side effects include:

  • Daytime drowsiness due to its sedating effects
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime grogginess or “brain fog”
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Increased appetite and possible weight gain
  • Strange dreams

What Can Remeron Be Used For?

Remeron is an antidepressant, but it has more applications outside of treating depression by itself.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a common off-label prescription for Remeron. It’s a common sleep disorder that affects your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both.

There are two types of insomnia: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is common and is usually caused by external stressors like work, school, family pressures, or traumatic events. It usually lasts for a couple days or weeks, but often corrects itself once the stressful stimuli has been eliminated.

Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, can last for months or longer. Chronic insomnia is usually secondary, meaning it is a side effect of another condition such as depression or another medical issue.

Remeron has been shown to help individuals with depression who also struggle with sleep disorders. This may mean that it can help with chronic insomnia, but there is not enough evidence to conclude this.

You can talk to a doctor about taking Remeron for insomnia. Since it’s an antidepressant, it comes with the dual benefit of also helping to regulate your mood and reduce any symptoms of depression that may be co-occurring with the sleep disorder.

Major Depressive Disorder

Remeron is also prescribed as a treatment for clinical depression. Major depressive disorder is a mood disorder marked by persistent feelings of hopelessness, lack of pleasure, irritability, anxiety, and more. 

Remeron is a tetracyclic antidepressant, which is different from Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). Tetracyclics are prescribed less often, usually due to the side effects associated with them.

What Dose of Remeron Should I Take for Sleep?

Doses of mirtazapine are generally administered once a day at bedtime. They are taken without food. 

While the dosage will likely start as small as 15 mg during the initial weeks, this dose can gradually increase to around 45 mg over time. Always follow the dose advised by your doctor. 

Even if Remeron noticeably reduces your sleep disorders or depressive symptoms, never stop taking it without instruction from your doctor. If you stop taking any medication without proper guidance, you increase the risk of withdrawal or relapse symptoms.

Additionally, if you happen to miss a dose of Remeron, try to take it as soon as you remember as long as it is not too close to your next dose. 

Other Ways to Regulate Sleep

Even though Remeron has shown some success in helping with insomnia and other sleep disorders, it may not be right for you. There are other things that can help regulate your sleep schedule that doesn’t require medication.

Put Your Phone Down Before Bed

Your body’s circadian rhythm is like a biological clock that uses external stimuli to release hormones to make you feel alert or sleepy depending on the time of day. One of the main indicators to your body that it is time for bed is light, or the lack thereof.

When it gets dark outside, it signals to your body that it is time to go to bed. But when you watch TV or use your phone in bed, it tricks your brain into thinking that it is still daytime. This can be a big factor as to why you are having trouble falling asleep.

Try putting your phone down for at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep. In that time, try reading a book, journaling, or making a to-do list for the next day.

Exercise

Exercising regularly may be able to help you sleep better at night and feel more energized during the day. It’s also been shown to help reduce symptoms of insomnia, making it just as effective as some sleep medications.

Additionally, exercise can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are both mental health conditions that can affect your sleep wake cycle. By combatting one of these, you may be able to sleep better at night.

Limit Naps During the Day

When you sleep, you go through a number of different phases that allow your body to reset so you feel rejuvenated when you wake. However, you need to sleep for at least seven hours for each of these phases to do their job.

Waking up in the middle of a deep sleep stage can cause something called sleep inertia, which is basically grogginess. When you take a long nap, you run the risk of this phenomenon occurring. This can also cause you to sleep off some “sleep debt” which can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

Naps are a good way to make up for lost sleep, but you should limit them to no more than 20 minutes. On top of that, try not to take them after 3pm so it doesn’t have any effect on your sleep cycle come nighttime.

In Conclusion

Insomnia and other sleep disorders are very common in the United States, and many people turn to medication in order to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. One of these is Remeron, or mirtazapine, which is an antidepressant medication. However, its off-label use of treating insomnia has proved fairly effective.

Remeron has sedative properties that can make it useful in helping you fall asleep. In one study, every participant found an improvement in their quality of sleep after taking Remeron. While studies have never been conducted on individuals who only experience insomnia, it is an effective depression treatment that can come with secondary improvements in sleep.

Remeron is a tetracyclic antidepressant, which is much less common than traditional SSRIs such as Zoloft or Prozac. Despite its number of side effects, you can talk to your doctor to see if it might be useful to you.

There are other ways to help with sleep disorders, such as getting treatment with YANA

YANA is an online mental health clinic that matches you with an expert doctor for a consultation and customized treatment plan. If you both decide that a medication such as Remeron could be useful to you, it can be delivered right to your door, quickly and discreetly.

Take an important step towards happy, healthy sleep by getting expert help from a licensed physician. Relief is just a few clicks away.

Sources:

The State of SleepHealth in America – American Sleep Apnea Association

The effects of mirtazapine on sleep in patients with major depressive disorder – PubMed

Mirtazapine and sleep – Sleepstation

Tetracyclic Antidepressants – American Addiction Centers

Mirtazapine (Remeron) – National Alliance on Mental Illness

Exercise and Insomnia: Can Physical Activity Combat Insomnia? – Sleep Foundation

Are Long Naps Bad For You (and How Long Is Too Long) – Cleveland Clinic